14 Apr Meet Shropshire’s High Sheriff for 2023-2024, Mandy Thorn MBE DL
As the first person in my family to study for a degree, and after a slightly “peripatetic childhood” – as a family we moved several times as my Father continued to get promoted in his media and public relations career – I feel incredibly honoured not only to following in the very illustrious footsteps of all the previous High Sheriffs of Shropshire but also as this is the county in which my maternal grandmother was born (in Meole Village). Her Mother was born in Myddle and her father, my great grandfather, was articled at 14 as a legal clerk within the Shrewsbury Town Council and ended up as a Town Clerk, first of Grantham and then Ripon. Shropshire has been our home since December 1993.
I was born in Surrey in 1963 and educated in a variety of schools in a variety of locations until attending Hereford VI Form for A levels and then Portsmouth Polytechnic for a degree in Geography. I met my husband, Mark, before going to Portsmouth in 1980 and we married in Shropshire where my parents had settled, in 1986. Together Mark and I have been incredibly fortunate to have been able to travel the world because of his job and then to have been able to settle in Shropshire to provide a permanent home for our two children, Katie and Nick.
I have been quoted before as having said I have had several different careers; I started my working life peeling potatoes as a weekend job in a Worcestershire pub, as a student I worked as a travel clerk at Digbeth Coach Station in Birmingham and Bracknell Bus Station, and then after graduating undertook a graduate management placement with the then National Bus Company in Birmingham. A move to London saw me change career direction, working in marketing and customer support for a multi-national company before seeking a new challenge and finally becoming a marketing and publicity manager for a large car leasing business.
After our daughter, Katie, was born and with bank interest rates in double digits, we realised that living in London was not possible and Mark, working as a geotechnical engineer for a global engineering consultancy, went in to work to ask for a transfer out of London. We expected to go back to Birmingham but instead were posted to Gaborone, Botswana. After Nelson Mandela was released, we were posted to Johannesburg and we spent four happy years there, returning to the UK briefly for the birth of our son, Nick. Whilst in Johannesburg I volunteered at a marvellous centre supporting women and babies which enabled me to meet many people who have become lifelong friends.
Our return to the UK was triggered by my mother’s declining health and we decided to leave South Africa and move to Shropshire, a decision we have never regretted. Our children had the opportunity to live and be educated in this beautiful county and to spend a lot of time with their grandparents who were a central part of our lives. I joined my parents’ business and shared an office with my father for over a decade.
Working in social care – so very different from my previous corporate career – has been an incredible experience and I am so very proud of the hundreds of colleagues I have known and worked with over the 36 years we had our family business. We were privileged to support and care for people who had life limiting conditions, having been entrusted with their care by their families. We took that trust incredibly seriously and worked with families to provide wrap-around care wherever possible. I learnt so much from the people I worked with and from those we cared for, and I remain immensely thankful that I was able to work with such amazing people.
All through my time working in the family business I continued to undertake voluntary roles, often as a representative on partnership boards or groups working to improve training and skills. I was a founder member of the ground-breaking care sector representative group, Shropshire Partners in Care, sat on the Board of the National Care Association including becoming their vice chairman; was a director of Shropshire Business Link, Shropshire Chamber of Commerce (ending up as President). I have been privileged to be the Chair of Lingen Davies Cancer Fund and am a current Trustee; to have served as a trustee of Shrewsbury Town in the Community and be a founding non-executive director of the Gold Standards Framework for End-of-Life Care. As a proud Rotarian I have served as Club President of Shrewsbury Darwin. I was a director of the Marches Local Enterprise partnership for six years and then after a year off the Board was appointed as the Chair of the LEP- a partnership of private, public, and academic sectors across Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin and Herefordshire. I am currently a trustee of the Harper Adams University Development Trust and a school governor.
Shropshire has provided so much opportunity to me and I am keen to shine the spotlight on the county and all it has to offer but I am also aware that behind the lovely countryside and within many of our towns, villages, and hamlets we have real problems. We are an ageing population and that can present real issues for those that need care and support and for those organisations that rely on volunteers – which is why the focus on volunteering by my predecessor Selina Graham has been so important.
Too many members of our communities suffer from social exclusion, we have too many incidences of domestic abuse, of poverty. Our young people are vulnerable to those who use ‘county lines’ to traffic drugs. Too many people are still victims of sexual exploitation and the lack of meaningful activity for young people, mental health issues, drug and alcohol misuse increase vulnerabilities which can be compounded by the rural nature of our beautiful county.
I have seen how people can make a difference – particularly through volunteering – and know that there is much amazing work going on across Shropshire to support and enable those who need a chance, an opportunity to improve their lives. As High Sheriff I have an incredible opportunity to shine a spotlight on those who work within our communities and to be able to celebrate and thank them.
Nationally, the High Sheriff’s Association has its own charity, Crimebeat, which celebrates and supports innovative initiatives instigated by young people, for young people, to prevent them becoming involved in criminal activity and ending up in the justice system. Shropshire has not yet participated in this competition, and I want to continue Selina’s efforts working with youth groups to encourage projects to come forward and to champion them.
The traditional role of High Sheriffs is to support those working on our behalf to uphold the King’s Peace – including the judiciary, police, prison, probation, and emergency services. I am in awe of those who work in these organisations and want to recognise and thank as many as possible for all they do on behalf of each of us.
Being appointed to a role with over 1000 years of history behind it is rather daunting but also gives such an opportunity to shine a spotlight on those who make a difference, those who are unsung heroes. As is customary I will be seeking nominations for High Sheriff Awards – if you know of an individual, a voluntary or community group or a business that is going the extra mile and who deserves recognition please do not nominate them – the link to the application form is here.
I would love to be able to visit as many community and voluntary groups and businesses who operate successful corporate social responsibility programmes as I can to say thank you for what they do. If you know of an organisation who would like a visit please let me know.
Photo Credit – Shropshire Star