By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter
The new chief executive of Ashfield District Council has described the role as the pinnacle of her career.
Theresa Hodgkinson started in local government as a lifeguard at a council leisure centre.
But this week she was announced as the first woman to permanently hold the role of chief executive in Ashfield’s 47-year history.
She was the unanimous choice of the recruitment panel.
The mother-of-two, who grew up in Blidworth, replaces interim chief executive Carol Cooper-Smith. She has 35 years of continuous local authority experience, spread across four councils in Nottinghamshire.
This includes serving as director for place and communities at Ashfield for the past two years, having worked her way through the authority’s ranks over more than a decade.
She began her local authority experience as a lifeguard in Newark and Sherwood, working at a leisure centre in Rainworth before progressing into policy-making.
In her 15 years at Ashfield District Council, she has helped set up Lammas Leisure Centre in Sutton and is part of the team behind the £15 million Kirkby Leisure Centre currently under construction.
Her department was also integral in putting together the successful £62.6 million Towns Fund bid, across Sutton and Kirkby, as well as securing the £6.2 million Future High Streets funding in Sutton.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, she praised the ambition of the district.
“Ashfield has got a real independent spirit, it’s a great district and we’ve got great leaders,” she said.
“We’ve got huge ambition both for the place and for the people.
“I’m absolutely immersed in Ashfield. Its values are my values, and I’ve helped develop those values along with the workforce.
“Everyone is buying into it and we’re not doing it on our own. We’re doing it with our partners and stakeholders like Discover Ashfield and providing a real direction for the district.”
Mrs Hodgkinson is from a mining background and has lived in north Nottinghamshire all her life.
This, she says, has helped to drive a “passion to make a difference” in her community.
“I’ve got a lifelong commitment to public service and I feel a sense of duty to take the district council forward,” she added.
“Becoming Ashfield District Council’s chief executive is the pinnacle of my career.
“It seemed unimaginable and unreachable, but it’s attainable to anybody.
“This is it. I won’t be going anywhere else and it will be great for the organisation to have a bit of stability.”
In taking up the role, she says she “won’t shy away from tough choices” and believes the biggest pressures are managing the council’s finances while they recover after Covid.
But she also believes there are opportunities – particularly with more than £70 million in Government funding.
“The financial challenge is the biggest one at the moment, we’ve got a number of factors in relation to that,” she said.
“The pandemic has put us in a position where we’ve been working on the economic and the humanitarian recovery. This will form part of our corporate plan but it’s not the only thing in there.
“We’ve got loads of plans including building new houses, the new Kirkby leisure centre opening in May next year.
“There are a lot of opportunities. The Towns Fund and Future High Streets funds, and the additional income and economic development will bring into the area, will benefit the whole region.
“It’s so important we work together with our partners.”
Mrs Hodgkinson takes up the role from August 1, with Carol Cooper-Smith leaving the post on Thursday (July 29).
Speaking during the full council meeting, Mrs Cooper-Smith said: “We’ve done great things at this authority and Ashfield is now on the national map.
“It’s been the privilege of my career working for Ashfield District Council. It’s been the best job in Nottinghamshire and therefore the world.”