His sixth term as mayor now under way, Kit Owen reflects on his annus horribilis, forgiveness and rat catching
PUBLISHED: 11:27 22 May 2014 | UPDATED: 12:24 22 May 2014
He’s been a finance officer for the council, briefly ran a hotel, supervised holes being dug in the road, remains a qualified rat catcher, and is now starting his sixth term as Mayor of March.
Councillor Kit Owen, born and bred in March where his mum and dad were, respectively a shopkeeper and bus driver, he was unanimously adopted as mayor after what was his own annus horribilis.
A late night Googling error on his Fenland council owned computer – which led to a flood of images being downloaded, a conduct committee hearing and his sacking from the council cabinet- is firmly behind him.
He recalls the pressure to resign and to allow the story to “go away” but held firm to his belief it was an innocent mistake.
“Had I kow towed, as was requested, the story would still have got out,” he said. “Yes, I was treated harshly I feel by some members of the Conservative group- I emphasise some not all.”
Have they forgiven you, I asked?
“Clearly that’s the impression I have got. Have I forgiven them? Oh yes, you cannot hold a grudge for ever.”
We spoke on Thursday, the sixth anniversary of his wife’s death, and the second week of his mayoralty term. There’s no consort in sight to accompany him for the coming year, unlike, of course, his previous terms as mayor which began in 1983, and continued in 1987, 1991, 1997, and in 2004.
Cllr Owen has been a member of March Town Council since 1979 and a member of Fenland District Council since 1999, the later only becoming possible after he left Fenland Council’s finance department the previous year after a 23 year career.
He then went to work for a utility company overseeing the digging of holes in the road (“I never dug any myself but I used to look into them!”) and in 2001 briefly became joining managing director with his wife Beverly of the Oliver Cromwell Hotel, March.
The posts didn’t last long and the following year his wife set up a catering company whilst Cllr Owen established BKO Services, a local pest control service.
“I caught mice, rats and wasps but there there’s little demand for it locally- most people do it themselves these days,” he says. The business still functions, albeit quietly, but as a qualified rat catcher “I still have the goods to do the job, Last time I was called out was at the end of last year- but in reality it was a 10 second job to get rid of them.”
As mayor he intends to continue the traditional carol service, the date for the mayor’s ball is already fixed for February 6, 2015, and he hopes, also, to host a civic service.
One thing he won’t be doing this year, or any year come to that, is opening a Twitter account or engaging too heavily with social media. He recognises there are some unforgiving residents who do not always appreciate his forthright style and recognises “it’s too dangerous” for him to take to tweeting or responding any more to Facebook comment.
“I don’t look at the March Facebook page these days, although I do get told when I’m mentioned,” he says.
He puts some of the opposition down to the simple fact “I don’t suffer fools gladly. I like to get things done- but in a proper way”.
He’s also circumspect of the press, local and national, and believes “everything you read must be taken with a pinch of salt and a certain amount of scepticism”.
A life long Tory he’s now back in the fold at Fenland Hall but one step away from being restored to cabinet which could happen next year- until then he’ll chair the governance committee of Fenland Council and pile headlong into his mayoralty duties.
I chatted with him shortly after he had voted in the European elections but the ballot paper had baffled him.
“I’m quite sure I voted Conservative. I came out though and thought ‘did I vote Conservative?’ Still they can’t tell”.
And with a quick reference to those politicians who had inspired him – he admired but didn’t necessarily like Margaret Thatcher and had “a lot of time” for George W Bush- Cllr Owen was off and back on his bike.
Heading off into the sun for sure; definitely but not yet ready to head off into the sunset.