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A tribute to former Preston council chief executive Jim Carr

Posted on - 19th December, 2018 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Opinion, People, Politics, Preston Council, Preston News
Jim Carr, Preston’s former town clerk, who died 16.12.18

Jim Carr passed away aged 69 – having served 13 years as the most senior officer at Preston City Council.

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He led the former borough council which became the city council, this is a tribute to Jim Carr from the former head of communications at the city council.

Stephen Parkinson tells in his own words what it was like to work with the man who was one of the driving forces behind Preston achieving city status – against the odds.

Here are Stephen’s memories below exclusively for Blog Preston on what it was like being in the Town Hall and corridors of power with Jim.

Stephen was head of communications for the city council from 2000 to 2016:

Spilling hot tea over the desk of your new boss is not a great way to start any new job but that was my introduction to Jim Carr.

He smiled and calmly said, “Don’t worry these things happen” although I still remember my face palm moment most vividly.

That was the thing with Jim. He was always calm and in control. No matter what was thrown at him and during his time as Town Clerk and Chief Executive of Preston Borough and more latterly Preston City Council, Jim had much to contend with.

It is difficult to think about this now but in the late 80s and early 90s, local government in Preston was in a very sorry state. Operation Angel – with allegations of corruption and wrong doing amongst councilors and council officers had created a culture of fear and mistrust. What’s more, Preston’s and certainly the council’s reputation, was in tatters.

So much so that as a young and very ambitious council officer, I took advice from a number of people respected in local government before I even took the job at Preston. The one thing everyone told me? Jim Carr – he’s a great guy and you will enjoy working with him. So, my experience of working closely with Jim Carr from 2000 to 2009 began.

During stormy seas, you need a safe harbor and cometh the hour cometh the man. Jim was there when Preston and the Council needed him. He stepped up from Director of Finance into what was a poison chalice role at the time – but he did it with good grace, calmness, purpose and integrity.

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And, Jim didn’t just steady the ship. He raised it from the seabed, turned it round and set it sailing for sunnier and better climes. Now, Jim would be the first to admit it was a team effort and indeed it was. One of Jim’s huge qualities was listening. Often in positions of power, ego gets in the way but Jim wasn’t motivated by ego. He was motivated by caring for others and doing his best – come what may.

As such, Jim was able to pull people together. To trust and believe in him. From every walk of life and from every political persuasion. He never talked down to people and listened and learned. People respected Jim for that.

Jim had vision too. Despite many “naysayers” Jim galvanised political, business and community support for the City Bid – with Preston eventually coming out on top as 25-1 winners of England’s city status in 2002.

Stephen Parkinson out campaigning for the city status - led by Jim Carr
Stephen Parkinson out campaigning for the city status – led by Jim Carr

After that, Third City of the North West became Jim’s mantra with the Tithebarn project being key. Let me say this now. At the time, there was huge belief in Preston and in Tithebarn. I saw the evidence, the commitment and investment that went into devising the Tithebarn scheme. This was not half hearted or Mickey Mouse stuff. It was real and meaningful.

Of course, Tithebarn would eventually fail to pass but everything in life is about timing. The rise of on-line shopping, the early signs of an impending financial crash, objections from neighbouring towns and of course, the fight to list and hence keep Preston Bus Station. All led to Tithebarn’s demise.

Yet, in many ways, Tithebarn laid the foundations for the City Deal and subsequent investment and renaissance in Preston. It demonstrated, Preston had ambition and all the key ingredients for future success.

Jim believed that more than anyone. He loved Preston and was deeply proud to represent the city. It mattered to him greatly that Preston flourished and that the Council was credible and respected.

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That personal and human touch meant a lot to Jim. He always took an interest in you and your family. I remember the time I was going through a difficult divorce and he talked about previous difficulties in his own life and gave me wise counsel. I thank him deeply for that. It meant a lot to me that someone in his role with so much on his own plate would take the time and with genuine concern, ask how I was and give me encouragement.

Jim never ducked responsibility – taking on difficult challenges and difficult people. Like the way he fought through his prostate cancer diagnosis shortly after his retirement in 2009. He gave it his all with a calm, assured manner and with a smile on his face.

In life, certain people make an impact on you and you can learn a lot from them. Jim was one of those people.

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I was extremely sad to hear of his passing and I want to place on record just what a great public servant Jim was to the people of Preston. The City has a lot to thank him for. He gave everything and more. Although not born in the city he was very much a proud Prestonian.

Did you know Jim Carr? You can leave your tributes and memories in the comments below

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