Fond farewells from Haverhill’s ‘clerk without trousers’

Will Austin wears his 'special' t-shirt alongisde Nick Keeble
Will Austin wears his 'special' t-shirt alongisde Nick Keeble

Haverhill’s town clerk Will Austin has said his fond farewells – and was left having to explain the nickname ‘clerk without trousers’.

Mr Austin, who took over the role from Gordon Mussett in 2011, celebrated his tenure with friends and colleagues in a surprise leaving do at the arts centre last Thursday (March 13).

He has now returned to his Devon home to be closer to his children as Barnstaple town clerk, a role he began on Monday (March 17).

Town mayor Roger André said: “When we were looking for a clerk we had a comprehensive and exhaustive list of qualities we were looking for.

“We wanted a Rolls Royce and we got an Austin.

“We asked candidates to make a short presentation to address a particularly challenging issue.

“My general rule for presentations is that they should be ten slides and ten minutes.

“Will’s was 43 slides and it took me an hour and a half to read the notes.

“When Will was offered the job he made it very clear that he’d live in the town, so he promptly moved into Stoke by Clare.

“He has been magnificent, and we’re terribly sorry to be losing him but appreciate the circumstances and hope we find someone just as good.

“I have invented a new word – Austintacious – as Will persistently grabs issues on goes with them despite all the odds.”

Mr Austin said taking the job had been a ‘life changing moment’ for him.

He explained how when he was offered the job and asked to submit a picture for publicity purposes he quickly donned his suit jacket, shirt and tie and sat for a picture, cropping out his lower half as he was not wearing trousers at the time. However, his colleagues got hold of the full picture and had it printed on a T shirt for him.

“Usually I’d have a tirade prepared for organisations about their lack of service to Haverhill – sort out a hospital, a railway, our town centre – but there’s no-one here for me to moan at today,” he said.

“I’d spent 20 years working for big local authorities and it was all too cumbersome.

“My great uncle had an OBE as he was town clerk of Felixstowe and I thought he must have had a fun time being involved with the big strategic stuff but also some very local issues that make a real difference to people’s lives.

“I thought I could make best use of my skills by becoming a town clerk, and ended up in Haverhill which I’d previously known as just driving past to see my father’s relatives in Ipswich and Felixstowe.

“I’m forever grateful to the councillors for giving me the opportunity to take on this role and it was a great moment of pride for me when I got the job, little then did I know that this is just the most enjoyable job in the world.

“I’m so jealous of my successor as this is a role I would recommend to anybody.

“I never felt this sense of achievement in 20 years of work in big government – let’s have a unitary Haverhill.

“After I moved into Haverhill I have not regretted it for a moment.

“I love this town and have so enjoyed living here as it has so much going for it, and despite all the things it needs it’s a wonderful place to be.

“All of you have given me the inspiration to shout on Haverhill’s behalf and I’m sorry that I won’t be here anymore.”

Mr Austin is heading back south to be able to spend more time with his two young children.

“Being a father is the only job that has been more important that being town clerk for Haverhill Town Council and I’m deeply saddened to find myself in a position where I feel I have to leave a town that I have come to feel very much is my professional, personal and spiritual home,” he said.

“I feel a very strong affinity to Haverhill.”

Mr Austin’s tenure has seen the town have to cope with numerous budget cuts and become a part of pilot group ONE Haverhill, oppose the closure of Place Court care home, support pedestrianisation, hold the inaugural Summer Bash and instigate talks to run the former magistrates’ court as a youth hub.

Bob Whittome has been appointed as locum clerk until Mr Austin’s successor is appointed.

He has worked as Epping town clerk for 12 years and also in a locum capacity, and will work in the role and that of responsible financial officer.

For all the latest news see Thursday’s (March 27) Echo.