Councillor Sandra Parnell (Hertsmere) and Councillor Farida Turner (Elstree and Borehamwood) have respectively been installed as borough and town council mayors.
As Mayor of Hertsmere, Councillor Parnell, 70, represents the major Jewish centres of Borehamwood, Elstree, Bushey and Radlett. Having served as deputy mayor, her plans to make aliyah were scuppered by the death of her husband, Leslie, earlier this year.
A former hairdresser and owner of a Mill Hill beauty and fitness centre, Councillor Parnell retired at 50 and spent the next 13 years as a Jewish Care volunteer. She entered local politics six years ago after successfully leading a neighbourhood campaign against Green Belt development. Standing for Borehamwood’s Hillside ward, she became the area’s first Conservative councillor for 26 years and was re-elected in 2006 with a massively increased majority.
“I have to say, though, that the politics aren’t that important to me,” she told the JC. “What I love is that it gives me the chance to be with people and to do things for them.”
She and her husband were founder members of Belmont Synagogue and retained their membership despite moving to Borehamwood 35 years ago. However, she has picked former Borehamwood minister Rabbi Alan Plancey as her mayoral chaplain.
Councillor Turner, 67, has become the local mayor after just a year on the town council. Another Tory, she worked for Wizo for 10 years before starting her family. Husband Raymond was the Tesco director in charge of the company’s home-and-wear division and they have lived in Elstree for 44 years, belonging to Borehamwood Synagogue from its earliest days.
Public service runs in the family and her daughter, Hannah David, was last month re-elected to a seat on Hertsmere Borough Council.
Councillor Turner said: “This country has been incredibly hospitable to Jews all the way back to Cromwell’s time. I think that as Jews we need to give something back.”