THE outgoing mayor of Darlington who has championed the town’s heritage has thanked those who helped make his year in office a memorable one.

Councillor Charles Johnson has attended almost 400 public engagements over the past year – at least 30 every month.

Together with his wife and mayoress, Carol, he opened countless community events, attended scores of schools and supported dozens of charities and community groups, raising more than £13,500 for good causes in the town.

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As well as his day-to-day mayoral duties, the 73-year-old also organised a series of monthly events to champion Darlington and its heritage, and entice visitors to the town.

Among the highlights were the hugely popular Proms in the Park event in South Park, and the sell-out charity performance of Strictly Musicals at Darlington Civic Theatre.

“It is impossible to pick out one highlight. It has far surpassed what we expected,” he said.

“What made the highlight for us is seeing how our visit was a highlight for the people we were visiting, right from the top to the bottom.”

The grandfather-of-three, who represents the Hummersknott ward, joined Darlington Borough Council in 1976, where he served alongside five others on the old West ward, now split into Hummersknott, Mowden, College and Park West.

He left the authority in 1983 to work in South Africa, before returning to the council in 2003 as ward member for Hummersknott.

As well as hosting events in the town, Coun Johnson travelled across the North-East, from Northumberland down to North Yorkshire, to promote Darlington and its businesses.

Coun Johnson said: “We feel we have promoted the town far and wide and that is what we said we would do.

“We have taken the chains all around the North-East and most of them have come back and responded by coming to Darlington.

“We have now got this network of people who we are now very friendly with, and we understand they are going to try to keep this going.”

He thanked the town’s businesses for their support and sponsorship towards the running of the year’s events, and paid tribute to his support staff, in particular, David Alloway, the mayoral support officer.

He said: “We couldn’t have done it without David, it would be impossible.”

Coun Johnson will hand over to his successor, Councillor Gerald Lee, Conservative member for Heighington and Coniscliffe, at the annual council meeting on Thursday (May 15).