A FORMER town mayor and “proud Darlingtonian” who served on the council for more than 40 years has died.

Tributes have been paid to former Conservative Darlington councillor Tony Richmond, who died on Wednesday at the age of 81.

The father and grandfather, who was first elected in 1976, decided to step down from the council in 2019 due to ill health.

During that time, he led Darlington Borough Council from 1988 to 1991, and served as the town’s mayor in 1993/94.

Tony Richmond during his tenure as Darlington town mayor

Tony Richmond during his tenure as Darlington town mayor

Wife Sue Richmond paid tribute to her husband as a “very proud Darlingtonian”.

She added: “He was a lovely man. All he wanted was to be a good man.

“He loved politics and he loved his family.”

Council leader Cllr Heather Scott, who was elected at the same time as Mr Richmond, said: “I would like to say that Tony was a close friend and colleague we were both elected as councillors in 1976 and he was a hard working member for the residents he represented.

“He was held in high regard across the political spectrum and as leader of the Conservative Group made sure our views were well articulated.

“He was a proud father, step father and grandfather and I know his family were a priority in his life and I am sure he had a lot of pleasure spending time with them when he retired from council.

“We will miss him and remember him as a loyal friend and mentor.

“I send sincere condolences to Sue and family and share in your loss.”

Mr Richmond became leader of Darlington’s Conservatives in May 1988.

Campaigning with former Darlington MP Michael Fallon

Campaigning with former Darlington MP Michael Fallon

It was a position he held for almost 20 years, until he lost a vote of no confidence in January 2007 after some councillors became angry that his wife was standing as a Labour candidate in the town’s local elections that year.

Mr Richmond, formally a professional engineer, stood against former Darlington Labour MP Alan Milburn in the 2001 General Election as the Tory candidate.

In 2019, after stepping back from politics, he told the Northern Echo: “It has been an absolute pleasure – it has been so nice to have so many lovely messages from so many people.

“I will really miss it, but I have loved every minute of it.”

Darlington mayor Councillor Chris McEwan said: “He was an opponent, but he was also a friend.

“He was a gentleman and he was an excellent speaker. He taught me an important lesson, which was that brevity is always important.

“Even though I was in the ruling party, when we had private discussions he would give advice to me as a new member.

“From that point of view he was quite supportive but if there was an issue he felt strongly about he would speak up about it.

“I genuinely think Darlington has lost a good bloke.”

Paul Wildsmith, managing director of Darlington Council, said: “Tony was a well respected councillor and group leader at the council for many years and it is with great sadness that we heard of his passing after a long illness. 

"Our thoughts are with his wife Sue and family at this sad time. Tony served Darlington with distinction for many years in varying roles including being the Mayor. He will be sadly missed.”

Other councillors who worked with Mr Richmond over the years also paid tribute.

Labour's Cyndi Hughes said: "Sad to hear of the passing for former Darlington councillor, Tony Richmond.

"I will remember him for his straight-talking, no nonsense, work now/ play later advice to our son James and to other young people lucky enough to have been within his orbit of influence."

Former Darlington chief executive Ada Burns and former council leader Bill Dixon were also among those to pay tribute to Mr Richmond on social media.