Councillor Freda Roberts MBE steps down today (Wednesday) after more than half a century in local politics.
Mrs Roberts’ decades of dedication and devotion to Buckinghamshire’s county town has earned her the well-deserved title of ‘Mrs Aylesbury’.
The former nurse, who is Yorkshire born and bred, moved to Aylesbury after meeting her late husband Rupert while he was stationed in the county during the Second World War and visiting one of his comrades in hospital.
The pair married and settled first in Aylesbury High Street before moving later on to Blenheim Place in Southcourt, where Mrs Roberts still lives now, where they brought up their two children, Timothy and Sally.
The mother-of-two developed a soft spot for the town and its people, and was first elected as a Labour councillor for Southcourt on the Aylesbury Borough Council in 1963 before the local authority reshuffle in 1974, when it became Aylesbury Vale District Council, but joined the Social Democratic Party, which later became the Liberal Democrats after that.
Mrs Roberts, whose final AVDC council is being held today (Wednesday) said: “My parents would turn in their graves if they knew what I’d got up to – they were very Conservative!
There comes a time when you realise that you can’t go on forever, and I think I’ve gone on a lot longer than a lot of people would have hoped for!Freda Roberts
“I think, being a nurse, I always cared about people and having that sort of background certainly helped.
“I believe in being honest and truthful. With me, what you see is what you get. As a councillor, you have to practice what you preach. I have always been someone that has done my own thing.”
It was the beginning of a very fruitful political career in the town, lasting 52 years.
In that time she has represented Bucks County Council, been mayor twice, sat as a magistrate, been a school governor, was made a county council alderman and got involved with countless charities and organisations.
During her time at Bucks County Council, her late husband Rupert – who died in 1997 – worked in the surveyors’ department and Mrs Roberts recalls a joke he used to trot out regularly to get a laugh.
She said: “He used to say, he was the only man in Aylesbury that lived with his wife and his boss at the same time!”
She says one of her proudest achievements is the Southcourt Senior Citizens club, which was set up in the 1970s to provide a social club for more than 50 elderly folk in the area.
Mrs Roberts and other volunteers used to organise holidays and social events for the club members, but when she had to step down due to other increasing commitments, it sadly folded.
She said: “When I stopped, it stopped, which was rather a shame. But I feel proud that we were able to give those people a lovely time, especially those who didn’t have family or friends, because they would have been alone otherwise.”
Mrs Roberts says she will miss her role on the council but says ‘the way it all works’ has changed beyond all recognition during her time representing the community.
She said: “There comes a time when you realise that you can’t go on forever, and I think I’ve gone on a lot longer than a lot of people would have hoped for!
“But, when you give one thing up, usually another replaces it. It’s all part of life’s rich tapestry.
“There has always got to be somebody out there that people can approach, and I hope that will be one of the things my constituents remember me for.”
The community stalwart, who is a great-grandmother to four, keeps her age a closely guarded secret and she says it is one she will take to her grave, joking that she would try and stop them putting her date of birth on her coffin.
She remains vice president of the Aylesbury Scouts and the chairman of the local William Harding’s Charity.
Cllr Neil Blake, leader of AVDC, also added to the tributes, saying: “What can I say about Freda Roberts that hasn’t already been said?
“She’s been a dedicated councillor at AVDC and a shining example of how to represent both the council and residents, strong in her views yet always prepared to listen to the other side of an argument.
“Now the time has come to stand down as a councillor I really hope that she enjoys a well earned retirement, although I can’t imagine that she’ll be sitting back and doing nothing.
“Freda Roberts MBE - a lovely lady.”
Those joining Mrs Roberts in not standing for re-election on May 7 are David Thomspon (Aston Clinton), Derrick Isham (Buckingham North), Corry Cashman (Cheddington), Alan Ward (Elmhurst and Watermead), Andrew Douglas-Bate MBE (Haddenham), Pearl Lewis (Luffield Abbey), Brian Roberts (Mandeville and Elm Farm), Jackie Phipps (Marsh Gibbon), Pam Pearce (Newton Longville), Avril Davies (Pitstone), Sue Polhill (Quainton) and Chris Richards (Wendover).