A STANDING ovation has given a fitting send-off to Rugby’s longest-serving councillor upon his retirement.
Coun Dr James Shera MBE was given a special vote of thanks for his 40 years of service to the borough by Rugby Borough Council, with group leaders paying tribute to Coun Shera’s remarkable contribution to the borough.
Coun Shera was elected to represent the borough’s Benn Ward in 1982, marking the start of four decades of public service.
The Labour councillor made history in 1988 when he became the first Pakistani to be elected Mayor of Rugby, and four years later he became one of the first recipients of the prestigious Star of Pakistan, awarded by the president of Pakistan for services to community and interfaith relations.
Coun Shera was made an MBE in 2007 and a decade later was made an Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Rugby – the highest honour the borough council can bestow.
Born in a small rural village in Pakistan, Coun Shera’s journey towards playing a pivotal role in Rugby’s public life began when he secured a scholarship to study at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium.
He hitch-hiked through Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece and Yugoslavia before reaching Italy, where he caught a train to Brussels to start his studies.
Friends in the UK led Coun Shera to England in 1970 and a job at Rugby station as a railway guard. After completing a post-graduate degree at the University of Warwick, he became a teacher at Newbold Middle School, later joining the county council education department where he worked until taking retirement.
Paying tribute to Coun Shera at a full council meeting, group leaders all noted his skills as a mediator, bringing people together from across the political divide to find common ground and a way forward.
Coun Maggie O’Rourke, leader of the council’s Labour group, paid tribute to a ‘lifelong friend’ and a ‘great mentor who gives so generously of his time to so many’.
She said: “There’s a well-known saying in politics which I’m sure you’re all familiar with – a week is a long time in politics.
“Well, by my calculations, 40 years amounts to 2,080 weeks, and in those 2,080 weeks Coun Dr James Shera has managed to fit in a lot.
“James, you have served your local community locally, nationally and internationally in the most exemplary manner.
“You’re a natural diplomat and have always used any influence you may have in the most positive of ways.”
Coun Seb Lowe, leader of Rugby Borough Council, praised Coun Shera’s integrity and hard work, adding: “There’s no doubt in my mind there is no councillor who is more popular or more greatly respected than Coun Shera.”
Coun Jerry Roodhouse, leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat group, recalled Coun Shera’s support for Myton Hospice opening a day hospice in Rugby and his work to secure Warwickshire College’s new centre in Technology Drive – a recollection he had while driving down James Shera Way to visit the college earlier that day.
“Thank you for what you have done for the borough and for your service,” Cllr Roodhouse told Coun Shera.
Coun Dr James Shera MBE retires from Rugby Borough Council on Monday (May 9) after representing the Benn Ward for 40 years.