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1040 Abroad
Cllr Nancy Baldwin Mayor Nancy Baldwin

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London’s American Mayor

The London borough of Richmond upon Thames appointed its first Anglo-American Mayor earlier in 2019. Mayor Nancy Baldwin tells us about swapping New York for London, the Special Relationship, and celebrating Thanksgiving with a special Charity Dinner Dance this November

Published on October 1, 2019
First published in the November-December 2019 edition of The American magazine

Thank you so much for your time Cllr Baldwin. Our traditional first question, where in the States are you from?

​I am from a small farming village in Upstate New York very near Lake Ontario.

How did you find yourself moving to the UK?

Very cliche - I married an Englishman! The accent will get you every time!

Congratulations on being named Mayor of Richmond earlier this year! How does it feel to be the first Anglo-American to hold that position?

Thank you! I am really very proud. It just goes to show what an open, welcoming and inclusive place Richmond borough is.

You've had quite a varied career; banker, teacher, entrepeneur and actor - how did you become involved in public service and politics?

Gosh! Everyone asks that. I suppose part of it is that it is in my DNA. My parents were very public spirited. My dad was a town councilman. My mom set up district nursing in our county. My 6 brother and sisters and I (yes! Seven of us!) were taught from an early age that community is important and that a life of service is well spent.

Have your previous jobs helped in your role as Mayor of Richmond?

​Absolutely! They have meant that I can speak with lots of different types of people and really understand their lives and concerns. I feel only respect for our business leaders as they contend with what the world of commerce is throwing at them. Teachers and schools are a particular area where I can really appreciate the day to day challenges and rewards that working with children entails, having been there myself. And being an actor means I feel right at home in front of a crowd connecting with people and talking about all the great work done by the voluntary sector in Richmond borough.

Richmond is a popular borough of London for Americans to live in - do you count many as your constituents?

Yes! Richmond is really popular with Americans - whether they are on secondment and they come here because of the beautiful park and Richmond's easy access to ACS via the school coach - or, like me, "married in" because Richmond has fantastic schools, a wonderful natural environment and great transport connections into central London. And don't forget the cultural part - theatres and royal palaces. What's not to like?!

Does Richmond have any interesting American connections (aside from its Mayor!)?

Interesting doesn't cover it! Most interesting from an American point of view is that Richmond VA is named after Richmond upon Thames. In 1737, a Virginian planter named William Byrd II was given a land grant in the colony. He noticed that the view from a hill overlooking the James River was uncannily like the view over the River Thames from Richmond Hill so he named the city Richmond VA. The connection is still celebrated today and just this past summer we hosted a delegation from the city including two chiefs from the Powhatan tribe [Read More]. We celebrated our respective rivers and our continuing friendship. Absolutely fantastic...

Thanksgiving Dinner Dance

As part of your Mayoralship, you're raising funds for two charities, Home Start and Otakar Kraus Music Trust. Can you tell us about these charities and why they're important to you?

Well, Home-Start provides guidance and support to local families who have children under the age of 5 and are finding parenting challenging. There are lots of reasons for this but the Home-Start volunteers stand ready to help these families learn the skills needed to help their young children be happy, healthy and ready for school. The Otakar Kraus Music Trust provides affordable music therapy to local children with additional needs and to people living with dementia or mental health issues. I chose them because they deal with areas that I am passionate about - young children, strong families and music with its ability to bring people together.

One of your fundraising initiatives is an awesome sounding Thanksgiving Dinner Dance on Saturday 23rd November! How did the idea for the Dance come about?

​First of all, I wanted to share Thankgsgiving with my Richmond neighbours because it is such a great holiday - a true celebration of family, community and our thankfulness for both. So that explains the holiday and dinner part but the dance?? Well, I just love to dance as do all my female (and some male!) friends. Once you get to a certain age, you just don't get the opportunities anymore so the dance is for me and my friends and anyone who loves to dance like we do!

What can guests to the Thanksgiving Dinner Dance expect?

​Very cool stuff! A local craft brewer has made a special ale for the occasion (how neat is that!?) and, because I used to be the Chair of American Actors UK, I managed to convince some of my friends to entertain. It wasn't hard because they are a talented and generous bunch of people. We have a comedian, Mike Capozolla from NYC, doing stand up and acting as our MC for the evening. My friends, Bert and Linny Bushey and the GoodSoulsBand, will be providing the live dance music for us all to dance to.

What do you love most about the UK and miss most about the US?

​There's a lot to love about the UK including the fact that my two sons live not far away in London. When I talk to other Americans living here, we all agree that the history and pace of life is great but we especially like its proximity to other places. Two hours from my American hometown and you were still in Upstate NY. If you were flying you might be as far as Pittsburgh but it was still the US. Two hours from here you can be in Spain or France or virtually anywhere in Europe with a new language and culture and food. So exhilarating. What I miss most about the US is my American family and all my wonderful school and university friends - (shout out to Colgate University!) I also miss the almost universal can-do spirit and the sincere openness of the people. When an American says, "Drop in anytime!", they mean it and will ask why you haven't.

After your role as Mayor concludes, what's next on your horizon?​

Wow! Anyone who knows me well will tell you my most annoying habit is an inability to plan the future. I am too busy living now to be too concerned by next year. If you were to ask my husband, Adrian, though he would say a really long holiday away from Richmond. It has to be away because we can't walk 5 feet from our front door without someone wanting to stop and chat. I think he wants to get a word in.....

What does the Special Relationship mean to you?

Now there is a question. For me it's not about governments or some hackneyed phrase from the past. It is about individuals from both countries trying every day to understand one another and to help where we can. Mutual respect, I suppose.

Finally, what's the best thing about being Nancy Baldwin?

I thought the last question was hard! I suppose that the best thing about being Nancy Baldwin is that I am surrounded by and confronted with love and kindness each and every day - by my family, friends, and the people I meet in my travels as mayor. Being mayor is a daily reminder that people are good.

You can book your tickets for the Charity Thanksgiving Dinner Dance at Clarendon Hall - York House, on Saturday November 23 from 7pm, online via www.richmond.gov.uk/mayors_charities. For more details, you can also contact the mayor's office by telephone, 020 9981 7123, or by e-mail via mayors.office@richmond.gov.uk


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