OUTGOING Shire Hall chairman Alan Preest says he still can’t believe someone who grew up in a humble Forest of Dean council home would go on to be the civic leader of Gloucestershire.

The Conservative councillor for Lydney says he is eternally grateful for the privilege of representing the county.

Cllr Preest, 59, has been chairman of Gloucestershire County Council for the last two years, having previously served as vice chairman.

Born in Gloucester, he grew up in a humble home in Yorkley and since had a career with the Royal Air Force and has worked for builders’ merchants Travis Perkins for more than 25 years. He has reflected on his time as county chairman as it draws to an end this week.

“I’ve never forgotten my roots and what this wonderful area of the Forest of Dean is that we live in.

“When you look at that board in the county council, you see lieutenant colonels or people with MBEs and OBEs, it’s grounding for me to have just been a normal guy from a council house who somehow became the civic leader of Gloucestershire.

“From a guy who grew up in Yorkley, from a mundane council house who went to Yorkley Primary School and Whitecross in Lydney.

“Mum and dad both worked, they both struggled as well. Wages were not great then. We lived in a council house.

“I joined the RAF and had nine years with them and 25 years plus working at Travis Perkins. What a marvellous achievement to be the 31st chairman of Gloucestershire in 124 year history, I never thought I would have done that.”

He has thanked council staff and all political parties for the help they have given him during his tenure.

“The four political parties have been great, the Conservatives, the Greens, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have all really supported me.

“I think I’ve been quite neutral over the last few years.

“I’ve never really had to bang the gavel down on them. They’ve behaved themselves and it has been an honour to support that council.

“It was a great honour meeting the Royals, the Prince of Wales as he was before becoming King.

“And Princess Anne last week, three or four times I’ve done events with her.

“I’ve done about 70 citizenship ceremonies over the last four years. I will miss those. Meeting the wonderful people who are bringing so many skills and promise into the county.

“I’ve travelled the length and breadth of Gloucestershire and met so many wonderful people with so many tales to tell. It’s been great. It meant so much to me.

“With all the doom and gloom that goes on, it’s been marvellous.

“I’m so grateful to have been able to do that. I thank my family, friends and I lost my great friend and mentor Phil Awford this year.

“I think the county council has got the right attitude. We’re never going to agree politically but I think we are all doing what we can in these times for the people of Gloucestershire. I will continue to serve the people I represent and the rest of Gloucestershire to the best of my ability.”

The next council chairman is expected to be former highways chief and fellow Conservative councillor Vernon Smith.