THE council gathered last night (Monday) to select the two local reps who will be charged with the task of leading the Borough into uncharted financial waters.
Some may believe that membership of the ‘chain gang’ is a golden ticket to the top table at endless civic dinners and social events - but in truth there is much more to it than that.
Make no mistake, the role of Mayor is now a full-time job taking the First Citizen the length and breadth of the Borough meeting community groups and representing the council at top level events.
But this year is different. COVID-19 has seen to that.
At the very outset, the new Mayor will know that they are presiding over a very different Antrim and Newtownabbey.
During their tenure rates will inevitably rise, potentially into the double figures.
Much-loved events are falling by the wayside.
In short, this is no easy time to be the public face of the council.
But the new holder of that honour is relishing the challenges that lie ahead over the next turbulent 10-months.
That man is Jim Montgomery, who is bringing the chain back to Antrim Town for the second year in a row.
“I am honoured that the Ulster Unionist Party have nominated me for the role of Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey,” he said.
“Being born and lived my whole life in Antrim the Borough is special to me.
“In my five years as a UUP councillor my priority has always been the benefit of the Borough as a whole.
“As Mayor I am fully committed to developing this further.
“We are all going through unprecedented times with no real sense of the normality we knew just five-months-ago.
“A large part of my efforts as Mayor will be focused on the health and welfare of the ratepayers of the Borough and supporting the many businesses of all sizes in the Borough who are going through tough times with an uncertain future.
“Challenges face us as a community day and daily. The ongoing pandemic has provided new challenges and added to existing ones.
“Over my term as Mayor we as a council must play a leading role in addressing these challenges for the sake of all. It will not be an easy task but we must not shirk our responsibility.
“I take up office proud of serving this great Borough as Mayor and I will give my best and fullest efforts in the role for the benefit of all.”
He will be joined by popular SDLP Councillor Noreen McClelland, who has been nominated as Deputy Mayor.
She has said that her priority will be to support a ‘compassionate recovery’ for citizens across Antrim and Newtownabbey after a time of crisis.
“It is an honour to be nominated as Deputy Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey at this most challenging of time across our borough,” she told the Guardian.
“This is a crucial time for civic leadership and I know people have made immense sacrifices in the effort to fight COVID-19.
“I hope that I can demonstrate the compassion that our citizens have shown to each other and highlight the many things we have to be proud of.
“I am grateful to my party colleagues for placing their faith in me once again and I will do my very best to deliver for everyone across Antrim and Newtownabbey.”
Colum Eastwood MP, SDLP Leader, firmly believes that the Glengormley rep is up for the challenge.
“I am delighted that Councillor Noreen McClelland has been selected as the next Deputy Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council,” he said.
“This is an incredibly difficult time for all of our communities, we are all experiencing loss, fear and frustration as the COVID-19 crisis continues.
“I know that Noreen’s warmth of spirit, generosity and compassion will shine through and she will help bring people together again.”