End of an era as chief Derek says farewell

AS marathons go, nearly 43 years with the local council is a heck of a run by anyone’s standards.

But just as he did as a former Great Britain international, Derek Stevens, soon to retire as chief executive of Rother District Council, has somehow taken it all in his stride.

Rother District Council Chief Executive Derek Stevens

Rother District Council Chief Executive Derek Stevens

Derek, now 59, still holds the Sussex marathon record he set 29 years ago, and he is surely going to be just as hard an act to follow at Bexhill Town Hall.

As the council faces further cuts in central funding that will more than halve Whitehall’s contributions to Rother over the next couple of years, more belt-tightening is inevitable.

To help cut costs, and with an eye to protecting at least some jobs that might otherwise be lost, Derek announced last month that he would be stepping down as chief executive in favour of two lieutenants who will take turns to sit in the “hot seat” as head of paid service.

It is typical of a man who has always sought to lead from the front since becoming the council’s figurehead in June 2001, but Derek insisted: “It’s not a sacrifice, apart from the financial pressure the council faces. There’s been no pressure and it’s my own decision to step down now.”

He began his career as a junior clerk with the former Battle Rural District Council in September 1970 and rose through the ranks as the years passed.

He said: “I’m proud to be a local boy who has stayed local and to have led a fantastic staff who have made so many achievements possible, such as the £2 million expansion of Bexhill Museum, a similar investment in Egerton Park, a £3 million sports facility at Rye and creation of the De La Warr Pavilion Trust, which led to £10 million of capital investment and reduced costs to local taxpayers to around £500,000 a year.

“The Next Wave development, a key part of Rother’s overall regeneration plans, has been another to have been greatly appreciated by residents and visitors alike.”

Derek, who has also been Rother’s returning officer, at elections, leaves on August 2.