Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mayor Milton Mckenzie OBE

Interview with the Mayor of Barking & Dagenham

Emdad Rahman

Mayor Milton McKenzie MBE is serving a one year term as the first citizen of the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham.

Mayor McKenzie attended Bethnal Green and Tottenham Technical College. He was elected to the Council in 1998 as a member for Gascoigne Ward and then for Chadwell Heath Ward, Mayor McKenzie has served on various committees. His roles have included Chair of the Labour Group and of the Development Control Board and Cabinet Member with responsibility for environmental and sustainability issues. Mayor McKenzie served as Chairman of the East London Waste Authority for 6 years, co-ordinating the work of 4 boroughs.

Politics has always been a passion for the Mayor. He was employed at the Lotus Racing Car Company and Ford Motor Company for over 26 years, before becoming a shop steward in the 1970’s and was involved for many years with the trade union as an elected member on many committees.

In these roles he fought tirelessly for the rights and working conditions of the workers. As an Executive Member of South East Regional Trade Union Council, a member of the GMB National Committee for Race and Equal Rights and as Chair of the London Regional Race and Equal Rights Committee, Mayor McKenzie actively contributed to the campaign for equal rights for the diverse workforce at Ford Motor Company.

With his passion for diversity and equality of opportunity, he provided advice to groups and individuals and assisted in community events in Barking and Dagenham. For this work he received an MBE:  “Politics with a small ‘p’ has been a feature of my life. I was a card carrying student at College, and became very active in politics during the 70’s. I fought with others for the Government to retain Grammar schools. For me the notion that a person cannot elevate themselves in education because of a lack of finances is a laughable one.”

Mayor McKenzie has represented Barking and Dagenham Council as a School Governor at various junior and comprehensive schools, serving Gascoigne, Marks Gate and Chadwell Heath. He has also represented Barking and Dagenham locally and nationally at various public events.

The Mayor hasn’t taken a backseat from his daily grind, in fact these duties are in tandem with the role he plays in representing those who voted for him. “I enjoy meeting people,” he said. As the Mayor I represent our community and my role involves raising the profile of this great borough.”

Mayor McKenzie has enjoyed living in the borough for many years: “We have good people, true people. Sure there are pockets of people who are discontented, but that is the same everywhere. I am proud of the way the people and politicians have rallied round to cope with the devastation of imposed cuts. We are a good borough.”

Mayor McKenzie is a staunch advocate of education: “Education in Barking & Dagenham is second to none. We should be proud of this. I am passionate about enabling young people to access educational opportunities and benefit from them. After all, they are our tomorrow.” 

Political participation is key in the borough, the Mayor’s advice: “Parliament and politics has a part to play in every household. Too many people think politics is miniscule. It is the deciding factor in each and everyone’s life. If you get involved you make a direct contribution towards shaping how your life goes.”

The Mayor believes that young people must take politics by the horns and be supported and encouraged to do so: “Do good unto man! Believe in what you’re doing. Education is the first objective. Young people should know the history of what they seek and work very hard to achieve their objectives because there are opportunities out there. Stand by your principles and do not sell out. Be good and honest, for a lie has to be covered by a bigger lie, and so forth.
The Mayor say’s that I am the most famous person he’s met. After my broad grin had subsided and I had got over the fact that it was a tongue in cheek response, I posed the question again: “I was honoured to meet the grandson of Mahatmi Gandhi, who was a hero of mine. I also met Martin Luther King’s grand-daughter and shared a platform with her. I have also met Nelson Mandela’s grandson.  All are very special people who left a positive mark on me.”

“The best part of being Mayor is you get to see inside and outside the borough. You also get to see the borough from the outside. We all need to achieve the same objectives, though how we reach our goal may vary.”

Education is not restricted and I applaud mature learners who take the initiative to learn a new skill, art or subject. It enhances our community to no end.”

Mayor McKenzie became the Youth Development Officer for Barking and Dagenham through Essex County Cricket. He has a passion for all sports and has enjoyed playing football and golf. Cricket was his main sport. He served on the Ford Sports Executive Committee for many years and was Chairman of Ford Sports Cricket Club. He arranged games, tours and developed the Colts section and was involved in coaching and umpiring. He has also been a member of Barking and Dagenham Sports Council for many years.

The Mayor’s charity is “Living the dream,”which supports young people to achieve their goals through sports and recreation.  “Barking & Dagenham has a rich sporting history and this is a great medium to help people. Not everybody who is supported by this charity will become Olympians, but they stand a chance of becoming disciplined humans and good sports people. “

It’s been a pleasure meeting the Mayor.   A gentleman who has combined belief and hard work to get to where he is. A humble man, he signs off:  “If I can do it, anyone can!”

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