FREEDOM OF TOWN HONOUR FOR LONGEST SERVING COUNCILLOR

(THURSDAY, AUGUST 3) Thame's longest serving town councillor has been granted the freedom of the town.

Cllr David Dodds, who has served on Thame Town Council (TTC) and its predecessor the Urban District Council (UDC) for 40 years, including eight terms as Mayor or chairman, received his scroll from current Mayor, Cllr Nigel Champken-Woods, on Tuesday.

Friends, councillors and well-wishers threw a surprise party at Thame Barns Centre, which Cllr Dodds helped to save, to celebrate the event.

He said: "I would like to say how honoured I was to be made an honorary citizen. It was totally unexpected and the reception I had was unbelievable."

Cllr Dodds has witnessed dramatic changes in a town that has tripled in size during his 40 years at the Town Hall.

Now 62, Cllr Dodds grew up in the town he would come to serve, attending John Hampden and Lord Williams's Schools before training as a teacher at The City of Birmingham College of Education. He also gained a degree in education from The Open University and a special diploma in Computing from Oxford University.

He married his wife Jenny in 1972 and the couple have two children, William, 29, and Abigail, 27.

He said: "I started teaching geography and biology at what is now Peers School in Oxford, then I moved to Bedgrove Middle School, and from there I moved to Turnfurlong Middle School as deputy headteacher. I then took a couple of headships at Great Horwood and St Edward's Catholic Junior School before returning to Turnfurlong as head teacher where I stayed until I retired three years ago."

When the young Mr Dodds returned from teacher training in Birmingham, he was horrified by a number of changes that had taken place in his home town, which prompted him to join the UDC aged 23.

He said: "The former girls grammar school, where Co-op now stands, had been demolished which was an absolute crime and I thought we should protest. There were also plans to develop across Moreton which I thought was absolutely dreadful whilst the alternative was to develop to the north where it eventually did go as Lee Park. The bypass was another issue I fought really hard on as the council at the time were putting forward a bypass with T junctions at the Aylesbury and Long Crendon roads and also at the top of the hill on the Oxford Road. I pushed and pushed and said they should be roundabouts."

Cllr Dodds became the last chairman of UDC, which became TTC on April 1, 1974, and the first mayor of Thame. He said: "The UDC covered the same area as TTC but it was different because we did everything except education and county functions. We were in charge of housing, public health and all manner of things."

The former mayor also represents Thame South on South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) on which he resumed his position three years ago, after his work on SODC in the 1970s put a strain on his teaching career. He said: "I did a lot of work to set up SODC which I stayed on until 1979, but in those days they had daytime meetings which was a problem as it meant that somewhere there were 35 little people without their teacher."

Reflecting on the last four decades he said: "A lot of things have happened in Thame which I think have strengthened the town, including the addition of the industrial estate which has given Thame a greater balance.

"The people you work with make council work enjoyable. At times it is very frustrating because of the time it takes for decisions to be made, but when things eventually come off it is really pleasing."