Paying tribute to Mayor Althea Smith

with Cllr Sunil Chopra, the Master of Ceremonies and Mayor Althea Smith

I was delighted to speak last night at a “thank you” evening for Mayor of Southwark Cllr Althea Smith, who is soon to complete her year serving as Mayor of Southwark.

Over one hundred people from all over the community, including lots of councillors, enjoyed the music, dancing, fashion show and Caribbean food, all expertly coordinated as ever by Sonia Sutton.

It was a good community event and all proceeds went to the Mayor’s charity appeal in aid of King’s College Hospital and Kiwanis, the international children’s charity.

You can read the transcript of my tribute speech below:


When asked about the essence of leadership, Mahatma Gandhi replied,

“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.”

That is why, ladies and gentlemen, we are here to recognise the achievements of Cllr Althea Smith, Mayor of Southwark.

I feel deeply humbled to have been asked to speak about the works of such a remarkable leader.

Althea’s unrivalled talents and energy means that she has been a Mayor for people of all ages and from all cultures.

Not content with that, Althea has worked tirelessly to promote these values of inclusion and cooperation within Southwark and beyond.

Firstly, let’s consider her work with both the young and the elderly in our community.

Just this year I participated with her at the Southwark Mind Your Own Business Awards ceremony for young people.

This Council-led initiative encourages entrepreneurship among young people, a desperately needed scheme in times of such high youth unemployment.

Madam Mayor congratulated the winners and encouraged all the talented young entrepreneurs in our borough to fulfil their dreams.

Her care for the young is matched only by her care for the elderly. Did you know that Althea spent her Christmas Day with more than 300 elderly people?

Recognising the isolation many elderly people experience during Christmas, together we volunteered at the People Care Association Christmas Lunch.

We enjoyed making sure isolated and elderly people could enjoy a proper Christmas in warm company, instead of alone.

Secondly, Althea embraces all cultures.

When our friends from Southwark’s twin borough in France visited last year, Althea led the delegation of guests on a tour through Southwark.

The trip allowed guests to gain a better understanding of each other’s cultures.

The French Deputy Mayor said the day was “good for friendship and good for the exchange of people”.

He particularly praised Althea for bringing our two peoples closer together.

One of my fondest memories of Althea’s Mayoralty was seeing her dance in an African fashion show at a Black History Month event.

I honestly never thought I’d see my favourite Mayor get down like that!

And let me tell you, I still haven’t forgiven her for making me get up and dance in front of everyone!

But in hindsight, I really liked it!

It is such passion for experiencing new cultures that makes Althea a uniting force in Southwark.

Finally, since being elected as Mayor of Southwark last year, Althea has shown immense dedication in her role as an ambassador for Southwark.

She has attended about 700 events in just one year – an incredible achievement – providing encouragement to numerous people across the borough to get involved in the local community.

In addition, it doesn’t matter who she is speaking to – The Queen, the Ambassador of Switzerland or the Lord Mayor of London – she is able to quickly develop a connection and makes sure to speak proudly about our borough.

I was especially thrilled to join Althea last year at a lunch with the Queen for the Diamond Jubilee.

Then, again, Althea made sure to mention the great strives for inclusion and cooperation being made in Southwark.

Althea has been dedicated to embracing people of all ages and from all cultures as well as promoting Southwark with great charm. Essentially Althea is able to get along with all people.

This has been the secret of her successful Mayoralty.

Althea, I’m proud and grateful for what you have accomplished for Southwark.

Your deeds will last in our memories for a long, long time.

On this note, I’d like you all to join me in giving Mayor Althea Smith a huge round of applause

Thank you very much and join Madam Mayor and me on the dance floor!

Written by Prem Goyal