Combining a busy role as a reader at their local church with the high-profile position of Chairman of Cornwall Council is not for everyone but Ann Kerridge makes it look easy as she talks fluidly about the importance of the roles to her and how they can complement each other.

Ann Kerridge

Arriving in Cornwall in 1976, Ann settled in the Bodmin area and has been attending Cardynham Church ever since. It was while she was a Church Warden that the church became in transition and Ann found herself taking some of the services. To her surprise, she realised she enjoyed this aspect of the service so she made the decision to train to be a reader. She completed her training and was officially licensed by the Bishop in 2003. On average, she takes three services a month: a morning prayer service at Cardynham, a traditional book of common prayer matins at St Hydroc’s, Lanhydrock and Cafe Church at Cardynham.

It was around a similar time (the year she turned 50) that her involvement with the council began. Having previously worked as a Librarian and then a Manager of the Citizens Advice Bureau, Ann said she felt:

“It was time to move on and do something different – so I decided to stand as a councillor.”

Ann was elected as a District Councillor for Cornwall in 2003 and became a County Councillor in 2005. She played a large role in the implementation authority team who set up the unitary authority in 2009. She eventually became Vice-Chairman of the Council in 2013 and then Chairman in 2015.

Although her two years as Chairman ended in May, she clearly relished being in the role, explaining that it was important to not be too political:

“What you need is a good working relationship with all the leaders in the council and that just wouldn’t work if you were too controversial in your views.”

The role of Chairman is varied and includes chairing eight full council meetings each year and working with the 123 councillors in Cornwall. During her time at the council she has led the Cornwall Pride March in Truro, presented D-Day veterans with the Legion of Honour Medal, presented the Cornwall Civic Award, celebrated the Cornwall Rugby Team’s victory at Twickenham, attended the British Empire Medal presentations with the Lord Lieutenant, awarded the Queens Awards for Voluntary Service and visited numerous local events and festivals around the county.

“I have met so many wonderful people in my time as Chair but what I’ve really loved is that the role enables you to do things that really help. When I first became Chair, the refugee crisis was hitting the headlines. I went to the Group Leaders meeting and explained to them that I was able to represent the council on their behalf and so with that, take away any controversy that might otherwise be there and get action in motion. That summer we attended a rally in Truro to show support of the refugees and it really bought everyone together.”

Initially Ann said she tried hard to keep her religious and political views separate but there came a time when they naturally combined and she found that they actually provided an interesting way of looking at each of the issues.

“I often bring my experiences as Chairman into a sermon. For example, I have been out delivering leaflets for the General Election this morning and I cannot help but draw parallels to the Parable of the Sower – some fell on rocky ground and did not flower yet some seeds fell on good soil and produced a crop. Likewise, some of these leaflets will be thrown in the bin but some will be kept and read and will hopefully spark an interest in the recipient.”

Similarly, Ann feels that both roles require a great deal of commitment.

“Whether you’re a councillor or Christian, you find that people are 100% committed. To be a councillor you need to care passionately about the community.”

Ann received the Cross of St Piran Award in 2016 – you can read her story here.