Councillors pay tribute to Cllr James Shera after 40 years' service
COUNCILLORS gave a standing ovation to retiring Cllr Dr James Shera MBE during a special vote of thanks for his 40 years of service to the borough.
The vote of thanks took place during Tuesday's (26 April) full council meeting, with group leaders paying tribute to Cllr Shera's remarkable contribution to the borough of Rugby.
Cllr Shera was elected to represent the borough's Benn Ward in 1982, marking the start of four decades of public service.
He made history in 1988 when he became the first Pakistani to be elected Mayor of Rugby, and four years later he became one of the first recipients of the prestigious Star of Pakistan, awarded by the president of Pakistan for services to community and interfaith relations.
Cllr Shera was made an MBE in 2007 and a decade later was made an Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Rugby - the highest honour the borough council can bestow.
Born in a small rural village in Pakistan, Cllr Shera's journey towards playing a pivotal role in Rugby's public life began when he secured a scholarship to study at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium.
He hitch-hiked through Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece and Yugoslavia before reaching Italy, where he caught a train to Brussels to start his studies.
Friends in the UK led Cllr Shera to England in 1970 and a job at Rugby station as a railway guard. After completing a post-graduate degree at the University of Warwick, he became a teacher at Newbold Middle School, later joining the county council education department where he worked until taking retirement.
Paying tribute to Cllr Shera at Tuesday's meeting, group leaders all noted his skills as a mediator, bringing people together from across the political divide to find common ground and a way forward.
Cllr Seb Lowe, leader of Rugby Borough Council, praised Cllr Shera's integrity and hard work.
"There's no doubt in my mind there is no councillor who is more popular or more greatly respected than Cllr Shera," he added.
Cllr Jerry Roodhouse, leader of the council's Liberal Democrat group, referring to "Jim", recalled Cllr Shera's support for Myton Hospice opening a day hospice in Rugby and his work to secure Warwickshire College's new centre in Technology Drive - a recollection he had while driving down James Shera Way to visit the college earlier that day.
"Thank you for what you have done for the borough and for your service," Cllr Roodhouse told Cllr Shera.
Cllr Maggie O'Rourke, leader of the council's Labour group, paid tribute to a "lifelong friend" and a "great mentor who gives so generously of his time to so many."
"There's a well-known saying in politics which I'm sure you're all familiar with - a week is a long time in politics," Cllr O'Rourke told the meeting.
"Well, by my calculations, 40 years amounts to 2,080 weeks, and in those 2,080 weeks Cllr Dr James Shera has managed to fit in a lot.
"James, you have served your local community locally, nationally and internationally in the most exemplary manner.
"You're a natural diplomat and have always used any influence you may have in the most positive of ways."