Published: 14:13, 16 May 2022
| Updated: 14:14, 16 May 2022
Four Labour group councillors have announced they will not be seeking re-election.
Pat Cooper, Andy Stamp, Clive Johnson and John Lloyd made the announcement ahead of next May's local elections.
Cllr Johnson, who is the group's spokesman for children and young people, was elected to represent Gillingham South in 2015.
The retired English teacher has been very vocal about issues facing the Towns' youngsters.
This included supporting the successful campaign to have secondary school provision added to Abbey Court School in Strood.
He said: "These young people have profound and multiple learning difficulties, they're among the most vulnerable young people we have in Medway and it's important that we support them as much as we can."
The 61-year-old also wanted to see the Sure Start centres stay open, saying: "I think the children's centres have been a real loss to Medway, and if I could do one thing, it would be to bring them back and to put them at the heart of our communities to support all families, but particularly families who are feeling the pressure at the moment with all of sorts of things, particularly financial things."
The father-of-one spent time working at some of the Towns' schools including The Howard in Rainham, and was assistant head teacher at Chapter School for Girls in Strood.
He has a PhD in the works of Charles Dickens and in 2019 stood for parliament in the Sittingbourne and Sheppey constituency.
He said: "I feel it's time to step down after a really exciting but demanding time. I'm looking forward to spending some time focussed on family."
Gillingham North’s Andy Stamp was elected as a Liberal Democrat representative in 2007 when he was just 24, making him the youngest councillor at the time.
He has served as the Labour group's regeneration and communities spokesman and has stood as a parliamentary candidate.
The life-long Gillingham resident said: "It's a town that I'm really passionate about and I've seen it go through a lot of changes over the years, some good, some bad; it's really lacking investment."
Cllr Stamp, who works as an environmental regulator, said being able to stop a merger of the Sunlight Surgery and the Twydall Clinic with other surgeries in the Towns was among his proudest moments.
Working with Friends of the Strand Pool to call on the council to spend more money on Gillingham's outdoor pool was also important to him.
He said: "With the support of the community, we have managed to turn it around, and it's in the last few years been really successful and really popular as an outdoor swimming pool that's valued by the community.”
The Gillingham councillors are joined by Cllr Lloyd, who has represented Twydall ward since 2019.
Making a splash with celebrities and rubbing shoulders with royalty are among special moments Pat Cooper.
She has represented Gillingham North for almost 20 years.
But the great-grandmother has decided it's time to call it a day.
The 75-year-old was elected to Gillingham Borough Council in 1994 as a Liberal Democrat and one of her first major campaigns was fighting against the formation of what is now the unitary authority of Medway Council, which was formed four years later.
She was involved with getting the Sunlight Centre up and running in 1996 in what was the old Sunlight Laundry building in Richmond Road.
Reflecting on those early days, she said being in charge of events to mark The Strand's 100th anniversary celebrations in the same year was among her proudest moments.
But it was the appearance of a certain celebrity broadcaster which really caused a splash.
Cllr Cooper said: "Kate Garraway came as an interviewer and she got pushed into the pool by the young people, but she was quite happy about that. That was a real funny moment for me."
The Good Morning Britain presenter was asked back to mark the leisure pool's 125th anniversary last year, but was busy looking after her poorly husband Derek.
Another big highlight was meeting the Queen at the opening of the Universities at Medway campus in 2002 in what had been the navy barracks in Chatham, just a few days before the Queen Mother passed away.
"It's a town that I'm really passionate about and I've seen it go through a lot of changes over the years, some good, some bad; it's really lacking investment." – Cllr Clive Johnson
Cllr Cooper lost her seat in 2003 but was re-elected in 2011 as an Independent. In 2013, she accepted an invitation to join the Labour group.
She added: "We really fought a campaign to keep our Sure Start centres open, we had loads of meetings, we had demos outside Gun Wharf, and we tried and did absolutely everything as a group for children and young people."
The 19 Sure Start centres – which had provided a contact and advice point for new mothers and their young children – closed in 2017.
Aside from her work as a councillor, she has spent time campaigning for new play equipment at Hilly Fields Community Park, been a school governor, and volunteered at Medway Maritime Hospital.
Cllr Cooper moved to Gillingham from London in the 1970s and is a grandmother of eight and great-grandmother of three.
It was her age which made her decide to call time on her council career.
She said: "I want other people to have the experiences that I've had as a local councillor.
"If you can do this job – and I regard it as a job – then it's something that's really good and worthwhile for the community and local residents, to be able to speak up for them and help them with issues."