The outgoing Mayor of Northampton says his year in office has "opened his eyes" to the work volunteers and charities do for the town.
Gareth Eales hands over his chains to Councillor Tony Ansell tonight (May 16) to mark the end of his term as the 777th Mayor of Northampton.
On his last day in the role, he says he has come to see that Northampton is "blessed" with volunteer groups and charities working to build communities in the town.
Gareth told the Chronicle: "I've lived in Northampton all my life and I thought I knew the place. Turns out I didn't and I've really had my eyes opened.
"It's easy to focus on negatives. But when you get out there and see just how many great charity groups and volunteers are doing great work for Northampton you see we really are blessed as a town."
Gareth, a Labour borough councillor for Spencer, is Northampton's second youngest recorded mayor after taking office at 39.
In a year in office that also took in his 40th birthday, Gareth was mayor as Northampton saw a general election, three chief executives at the borough council, the centenary commemorations for the First World War and an attempt to make the town its own unitary authority.
"It's been an unprecedented year," said Gareth. "All I wanted was to get to the end of my year and have people say 'I met him, he's alright'. I've just tried to be myself. I think it's important that the first citizen is someone residents can relate to."
Gareth chose Northampton-based Alfie Bear's Journey as the charity for his Mayor's Fund. Over the year, he commissioned a new beer named Mayor's Mash from Phipps Brewery and held the three-day "Mayor-Fest" charity concert at The Picturedrome bar in Kettering Road. He has raised approximately £25,000 for the fund for a rare form of brain cancer.
He said: "A highlight of the year for me was the St James zeppelin raid commemorations. The memorial to the three lives lost to bombs in 1917 will be there forever now.
"There's too many people to thank individually, but I want to shout out to my wife and mayoress Terrie and all the groups and communities that have work so hard in the town.
"The year has flown by. I would never do the role a disservice and say it's hard work. It's a pleasure."