UK borough in grief over the death of Filipina mayor

Councillor Cynthia Barker became Mayor of Hertsmere in June: ‘Approachable and down to earth.’

The borough of Hertsmere in the United Kingdom extended its “sincerest condolences” on the death of the mayor, Councillor Cynthia Barker. The Philippine-born Barker was appointed to the position in June this year, having served as deputy mayor last year.

“Our elected members and staff are deeply saddened by the death of the serving Mayor of Hertsmere, Councillor Cynthia Barker, following a period of illness,” says a statement on the borough website. “Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this extremely sad and difficult time, and we send them our sincerest condolences.”

The flag flies at half-mast outside civic offices as a mark of respect, adds the statement.

Barker was recently featured in The August issue of The FilAm. She shared her story of how she joined her mother, then working as a carer in the UK, and became involved with charity work in her community until she was noticed by the Conservative Party and  asked to run for a political office.

According to the article: “The Conservative Party wanted precisely a woman who was not in politics and a member of a minority group to demonstrate their inclusivity. She was the perfect candidate.  To everyone’s surprise, most of all to Barker, she won handily in both towns and thus became the first female Philippine-born councillor simultaneously in the towns of Borehamwood and Potters Bar in the district borough of Hertsmere. That was the really significant victory.

“She said, ‘My mother’s sacrifices gave me the inspiration and drive to pursue my aspirations. I must also acknowledge my father’s sacrifices as he was just as lost as we children were when my mother went abroad to support the family.

“My mother’s traits, compassion and the willingness to help was instilled in me. I didn’t realize the light I had inside of me was from my mother who worked as nanny/housekeeper in a foreign land when it was not fashionable to do so.  And how successful she was in her journey specially in inspiring me and my siblings. From her journey, I was energized by people around me, our Filipino community and our local British community who believed in me and helped made me who I am now. They inspired me to integrate into the British community while proudly preserving my own heritage.”

“I knew Cynthia as both a colleague and friend. Nothing was ever too much for her. She thrived at being a local councillor, always wanting to help residents with their issues. She left a lasting impression on the council and Borehamwood,” said Leader of the Council, Cllr Morris Bright MBE as quoted in the borough website. “We are all struggling to take in the sad news at the moment but I am sure we will all remember Cynthia as a kind, wonderful person who was a hardworking community representative.”

Cllr Jeremy Newmark, Leader of the Labour group, said: “It was a privilege to have known and worked with Cynthia.  She was a trailblazer and role model for women and minorities in local government.  Cynthia was kind and supportive to me personally when I was first elected as a councillor, despite being on opposite sides of the political divide. She brought grace and dignity to the office of Mayor but was always approachable and down to earth, particularly when engaging with children and young people.”

Cllr Andrew Melville, Leader of the Liberal Democrats group, said, “The news is very sad about our dear friend Cynthia. I would just like to say how kind and friendly she was. She will be remembered for her warm heart and kindness towards her fellow councillors. I wish to pass on my deepest condolences to her family and friends at this extremely difficult time. May she rest in peace.”

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