CAMBRIDGE city councillors convened an extraordinary meeting yesterday (29 September) to approve a motion of thanks for Chief Executive, Antoinette Jackson, who leaves the council this week after eleven years in the top job.
Antoinette announced in January that she intended to leave the council in June and then generously agreed to extend her service to the end of September to lead the council team and city response through the coronavirus crisis.
The motion put before councillors was proposed by Cllr Lewis Herbert, Leader of the Council and seconded by Cllr Tim Bick, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group.
It says: “The council puts on record its very warm appreciation of Antoinette Jackson’s leadership as Chief Executive for the past 11 years, noting particularly the respect and affection received from councillors of all political persuasions and from the council’s wide reach of partner organisations and individuals.”
Antoinette took up the role of Chief Executive in June 2009, becoming the first woman to be appointed to the council’s top officer role. Over the past eleven years she has worked with both Liberal Democrat and Labour administrations.
Under her leadership the council transformed the way it does business to focus on protecting services to residents against the backdrop of major cuts to the council’s funding from government.
A consistent champion of the council’s strong approach to equalities, Antoinette has been instrumental in making sure diversity is at the heart of the council’s work.
During her time as Chief Executive she worked with partner organisations to gain major investment in Cambridge, including the £500m City Deal for Greater Cambridge and the Devolution Deal for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, which included £70m earmarked for investment in council homes in the city.
She also led negotiations to bring Stage 3 of the Tour De France to Cambridge at no cost to local taxpayers in 2014.
A strong, clear sighted leader with a passionate belief in public sector service, Antoinette is deeply respected by the council’s staff for whom, as head of the council’s paid service, she was responsible.
Cllr Herbert said: “City councillors, our staff and many across Cambridge and beyond hold Antoinette in great affection and respect. We thank her for her dedicated, skilful leadership of the council team for 11 years and her two decades of work for the city.
“We will all miss her, made up for by the fact that she intends to continue to play a part as a resident in city life working with local organisations. We look forward to seeing the next big challenge Antoinette takes on. Whether Antoinette misses long council meetings past eleven is another matter, but we do hope she enjoys the shorter meeting tonight when we share our tributes and heartfelt thanks.”
Cllr Bick said: “Antoinette has been a superb leader of our organisation for 20 years. She is leaving many lasting things behind: policies of both political parties that she has delivered; change that she has fashioned; a sense of service that she has kept fresh; above all, the staff that she has developed and led. Despite the corporate nature of her role, she has filled it out in a really human way."
Commenting on the council motion, Antoinette said: “I have been completely overwhelmed by the kind messages I have received from staff, councillors and partners. It has been fantastic to work in an organisation where so many people are passionately committed to public service and making a difference for city residents. I feel very privileged to have been able to work alongside them all for so long.”
Before taking up the position of Chief Executive, Antoinette had previously been Director of Democratic and Customer Services and Head of Strategy and Partnerships at the council.
Andrew Grant takes over as Interim Chief Executive on 1 October. Recruitment for a permanent Chief Executive is already under way.