There was a changing of the guard in Hawick’s civic hierarchy this week.
Hawick and Denholm councillor Stuart Marshall has stood down from the highly prestigious role of Honorary Provost after deciding not to seek re-election following four years of service.
His position has been taken up by fellow independent councillor Watson McAteer, now representing the Hawick and Hermitage ward.
Mr McAteer, a retired divisional police commander, took the chains of office at the annual general meeting of the provost’s council on Wednesday night.
Mr Marshall cited the need to “slow down the pace of life” for his decision to step aside, but he also hinted that he would love to return to the role in future if the opportunity becomes available again.
He said: “My decision not to seek re-election this time around has not been an easy one to reach as it brings to an end a wonderful chapter in my life.
“It has been a great honour to have been afforded the privilege to have served the town as its civic head and honorary provost, and I take with me the fact that I have met some truly wonderful people along the way.
“It is a role that I would love to return to in the future, but at the moment I need to slow down the pace of life just a wee bit, and I do hope that the townsfolk fully understand this. I will continue in my roles as chairman of the Escape Youth Café, and my work with the volunteer flood group and, of course, all the other bodies that I am a member of.”
Hawick born and bred, Mr Marshall, 53, succeeded ex-councillor Ron Smith in the role four years ago.
He said that despite stepping aside, he would “continue to champion Hawick at every turn”, and he added: “I pay a very special thank-you to my wife Doreen, sons Ross and Euan and other family members and friends who have been magnificent supporters throughout a wonderful period of my life.
“This great town of ours owes me nothing, and I won’t ever be able to thank the people of Hawick and beyond for the immense support that they have shown to me during both of my terms in office.
“What a privilege it has been. Thank you, Hawick.”
Mr Marshall has presided over four common ridings since his original election in 2013 and “had the honour of presenting four outstanding cornets and their acting fathers with their badge of office”.
A return to the role of provost would not be unprecedented.
The late Conservative Zandra Elliot enjoyed three two-year stints as honorary provost between 2003 and 2011, a period of public service only broken when former councillor Kenny McCartney assumed the helm from 2005 to 2007.
Mr McAteer, 64, was selected as the new provost, the 10th since the reorganisation of local government in 1975 after being the sole nominee at Wednesday’s meeting.
He said it would be a “fantastic honour to serve the people of Hawick”.
He added: “There is no greater honour for anyone from Hawick to be chosen as civic head.
“It simply doesn’t get any better than that.
“Stuart will be a hard act to follow. He has set the standard for provost in the town, and I will be looking to emulate what he has achieved and serve the people of the town to the best of my abilities.”