Monmouthshire County Council's Laura Wright handed over the reins to newly elected Chair, Councillor Meirion Howells following a gracious speech.

Cllr Wright's tenure was characterised by dedication, impartiality, and a noticeable commitment to combating loneliness within the community. From attending a concert at the Royal Albert Hall to the Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace, her stint as Chair was diverse and full of unforgettable experiences.

Perhaps her most enduring legacy, however, is Monmouthshire's first 'happy to chat' bench in Dell Park, Chepstow, designed to combat chronic loneliness. The bench forms part of the Council's strategy to tackle the issue, which affects an estimated 3.3 million people in the UK.

Speaking of her experiences, Cllr Wright emphasised the significance of kindness and mutual support, which she observed within Monmouthshire County Council during her tenure. She expressed particular gratitude to several colleagues, including Linda Greer, Julia Boyd, Paul Matthews, Matt Phillips, and Anne Webb, for their wise counsel and support.

In her moving speech, Cllr Wright also highlighted her chosen charity, Monmouthshire Mind, and the vital work it does to support people with mental health issues and to destigmatise mental illness.

As the Chair's term came to an end, she expressed anticipation and trepidation about transitioning to a new role. She took the opportunity to extend her best wishes to the incoming Chair, Cllr Meirion Howells, and expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to have served the county.

On behalf of the Council, Cllr Mary Ann Brocklesby delivered a heartfelt tribute to Cllr Wright. Describing her as an ambassador for the county, she noted Wright's fairness, politeness, and willingness to reach out for support when needed.

Similarly, Cllr Richard John added his praise for Cllr Wright, describing her as one of the best Chairs the Council has had. He lauded her for setting high standards, defending the rights of backbenchers, and leading meetings with impeccable manners and good humour.

Cllr Frances Taylor, speaking on behalf of the independent group, thanked Cllr Wright for her even-handed and fair approach. She also acknowledged the fresh perspective brought to the Chamber by having two women, Cllr Wright and Cllr Webb, in the Chair and Vice Chair roles.

Upon her departure, Cllr Wright was presented with a bouquet of flowers and the past Chair's badge by the newly elected Chair, Cllr Meirion Howells, who pledged to conduct his role with dedication, pride, impartiality, and fairness. He introduced his wife Sarah Howells as his consort, and expressed eagerness for the upcoming year, stating that he looked forward to being an ambassador for the county.