Female mayors in St Ives now have choice of Madam or Mister Mayor

FEMALE mayors of St Ives will have the choice of being called Madam or Mister Mayor – months after a councillor resigned over the title.

Just three weeks after her election in May, Jennifer Coville stepped down over problems with council protocol, including calling Councillor Debbie Townsend “Mister Mayor”.

Cllr Townsend raised the issue in last Wednesday’s council meeting after being approached by members of the public asking why she did not have a choice over her title.

Cllr Townsend added: “It wasn’t until we were confronted by the issue that members of the public asked me why I simply didn’t have the choice for me or future female mayors.”

Former mayor Councillor Martin Collier said he believed in “good manners, common sense and good taste”. He added: “The title doesn’t detract from the dignity of the office.”

Cllr Jason Ablewhite, who has consistently called Cllr Townsend madam mayor throughout her term, said: “At the end of the day one of the things the council has always done is pride itself on listening to the community.

“We should have the same respect for ladies out of courtesy, and really it should be madam mayor.”

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There have been 12 female mayors, including Cllr Townsend, the first of whom was Minnie Hudson in 1956.

Cllr Ian Dobson told the council that he had addressed four female mayors as mister mayor, and that the same sentiment of being called mister mayor would have occurred to them. He added that giving the choice to mayors would mean that it would keep the continuity of the council’s tradition.

Cllr Ian Jackson admitted it sounded silly to call a female mister, and not changing the protocol would perpetuate the difficulty.

Cllr David Hodge said: “There is no greater keeper of traditions than I. There haven’t been that many lady mayors and they have had to either put up with it or shut up.

“I really believe that ladies have the same rights as the gentlemen, and they have the right to be addressed properly.”

Councillors agreed that female mayors would have the choice of title between mister or madam mayor. Cllr Townsend said she would like to be called madam mayor for the rest of her term.