Councillor Pat Kennedy was been chosen as the next Cathaoirleach of Wicklow County Council.
The Fianna Fail councillor, who served as Leas-Cathaoirleach last year, was elected unopposed during Wicklow County Council's AGM on Monday held at the Shoreline Leisure Centre in Greystones to ensure physical distancing guidelines were followed.
He was proposed by fellow Arklow Municipal District councillor Pat Fitzgerald (FF). The motion was seconded by Arklow Municipal District councillor Sylvester Bourke (FG). Both councillors said Cllr Kennedy had done 'trojan work' in his role as a public representative.
Cllr Kennedy said he was 'honoured to be given the opportunity' to be Cathoirleach for the coming year.
He thanked outgoing Cathaoirleach, Cllr Irene Winters, saying she will be a 'tough act to follow'.
Cllr Kennedy said the local authority and its staff do 'fantastic work, however, we are not good at promoting all that is achieved. This is something I wish to improve upon. I want to bring the council back out to the people.'
The Garden County had the infrastructure, people and amenities to create economic growth and jobs, he said.
'Our location and amenities are a commodity that many other counties would love to possess.'
Referring to last week's announcement by SSE Renewables that its onshore service hub will be in Arklow, Cllr Kennedy said the county needed investment in urban and rural areas. A focus on the needs of rural communities was required to help them to flourish.
'Many of our rural towns and villages have stagnated due to a lack of investment in wastewater treatment plants. We must work as a council to put pressure on Irish Water to correct this and allow us to work towards the rejuvenation of our rural communities.'
Cllr Kennedy finished by thanking his wife Helena, Senator Pat Casey and other members of the council.
Outgoing Cathaoirleach of Wicklow County Council Irene Winters described her year in office as 'different' rather than 'difficult'.
In her final address to members as chair of Wicklow County Council, Cllr Winters said the Covid-19 pandemic had required the local authority to change its focus and adapt. She thanked council staff and management for their help throughout her time as Cathaoirleach and for putting in place processes to ensure a continuity of services during the pandemic.
Cllr Winters highlighted the work that had been undertaken by the council over the last 12 months including the completion of social homes in Baltinglass, Farrenkelly, Wicklow town and Arklow.
'I got to meet Ronnie Delaney in Arklow which was a personal highlight,' Cllr Winters said.
Climate action measures, works on roads, libraries and greenways had also been achieved.
'There are a few things I'd have liked to have done better like finishing an agenda,' Cllr Winters said, noting that she had asked many times for presentations to be kept to under 10 minutes in length.
Cllr Winters also thanked her family and employer, Wicklow TD and Minister for Health, Simon Harris for their 'unwavering support' during her year as Cathaoirleach.
'I thank members for their support and courtesy. It has been an honour and a privilege and I really enjoyed it,' Cllr Winters said.
Frank Curran, Wicklow County Council Chief Executive, thanked Cllr Winters on behalf of the local authority and its staff.
Cllr Gerry Walsh (FF) said Cllr Winters had performed the role of Cathaoirleach in an 'exemplary fashion' and been 'collegiate and respectful' to other members.
Cllr Vincent Blake (FG) noted the Cllr Winters was the third female chair of the council. While the last few months had been difficult for the council, he said she had always 'conducted meetings in a fair manner'.
Cllr Paul O'Brien (Lab) said Cllr Winters had 'set the standard' and hoped her successor would 'do the same and be as fair, open and approachable.'
Cllr Grace McManus (SF) said Cllr Winters had brought 'humanity and a good bit of heart' to the role of Cathaoirleach.
Cllr Lourda Scott (Green) said Cllr Winters had done an 'incredible job'.
'I've been awestruck by how you manage everything with humour and kindness. As a new politician, this is inspiring.'
Cllr Scott added it was 'astonishing' that Cllr Winters was only the third woman to hold the title of Cathaoirleach and she hoped it would not be a long wait for the next female Cathaoirleach.
Other councillors thanked and congratulated Cllr Winters for her work during her time as Cathaoirleach.