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Former mayor looks back on life at the top of city politics
WHEN John Goddard joined Oxford City Council in 1998 he never thought he would end up running the local authority.
But the Liberal Democrat city councillor is now preparing to retire from local government at the next election, having risen to the top of the political ladder.
Mr Goddard, who represents Wolvercote, was leader of the city council for two years.
The councillor did not want to give his age, but said: “I have been a councillor for 16 years. I am quite old and I think that’s long enough.
“There comes a time when it becomes a good move to allow a younger person to take over.
“It didn’t occur to me that I might end up leading the council when I joined it.
“When I was elected I had no ambitions other than being a reasonably useful ward councillor.”
Mr Goddard, a father-of-two and grandfather-of-six, was leader between 2006 and 2008 when the Lib Dems ran the city council as a minority administration.
It was the first time in 25 years that a single political group other than the Labour Party had run the city council.
The Blandford Avenue resident, who lives with wife Muriel, worked as a civil servant and as a clerk to the House of Lords, before he retired.
He said: “As leader of the city council I was particularly proud that we were able to get the council to take environmentalism really seriously and to introduce a regime which got good value for money.
“It was only two years in charge but we achieved a great deal and since then I am happy to see my successors have been able to build on that.”
But more recently Mr Goddard has been involved in the Castle Mill controversy over Oxford University’s student accommodation blocks near Port Meadow which caused uproar for blocking off the views of the ‘dreaming spires’.
Mr Goddard was the only councillor on the West area planning committee to vote against the scheme and he has since remained involved in the city council’s attempts to solve the issue.
He said: “I very much regret that it happened. I think it was a very serious mistake, a very regrettable major blunder.
“What has always bemused me is why other councillors didn’t vote against it as well.
“At the time it never looked right to me.”
Mr Goddard, who served as Lord Mayor in 2010, also represented Wolvercote and Summertown on Oxfordshire County Council between 2009 and 2013.
And despite the ups and downs he says he will miss being involved in local politics.
He said: “I have enjoyed it. I have always said that if I didn’t enjoy the job I was doing I would give it up.”
He will be replaced on May 22 when the city council election is being held.
The Liberal Democrat candidate for the Wolvercote ward is Steve Goddard – no relation of John Goddard – who has been a prospective parliamentary candidate for Oxford East.
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