“AN outstanding officer and servant of Council”, “a tremendous ambassador for this town and this borough”, “a visionary”.
Those were just some of the heartfelt words used by councillors to describe one of Ballymena Borough Council’s longest serving officers, Ronnie McBride, last Monday night at what was his last attendance at a monthly meeting for the local authority.
Mr McBride, who holds the position of Deputy Town Clerk and Chief Executive and heads the Council team responsible for Development, Leisure and Cultural Services, will retire at the end of this month having given over 30 years of service to the borough.
First to speak out, First Citizen, Alderman PJ McAvoy commended Mr McBride on being “professional, approachable and always wanting to do his best”.
“Ronnie has been a loyal member of staff for over 30 years and has contributed much to this borough,” said the Mayor.
Many of the councillors who subsequently spoke highlighted the important role played by Mr McBride and his team in such landmark projects as Ecos and in the continual improvements at The Showgrounds and also the People’s Park.
Alderman Maurice Mills said that having joined Ballymena Borough Council’s staff on April 1, 1982, “Mr McBride’s dedication, enthusiasm and overall professionalism soon became apparent”.
“He had a gift of foresight and an ability to grasp opportunities for Council - such qualities are a carry over from his days in the sports arena,” said Ald. Mills, referring to his rugby days when he played at centre for Ulster and Ballymena.
“He has progressed in his Local Government career to where he is deeply respected as a leading exponent of recreation,” said Mr Mills who added that ‘the borough is dotted with examples of his work’.
Addressing Mr McBride directly, he said: “Your influence and inspiration is a legacy that will remain...in your field of operation you leave Ballymena in a much better position than when you entered it.”
Describing Mr McBride as “an outstanding officer and servant of Council”, Cllr Declan O’Loan said: “He was proactive - he was one who saw what needed to be done, saw opportunities and drew them together. In recreation and development, initiative after initiative came from him.
“Ronnie can look back on a job well done.”
Speaking on behalf of the DUP grouping on Council, Cllr Tommy Nicholl said: “Ronnie has been a tremendous asset to the life of the council and also to this borough and we have the utmost confidence in the job that you did and were always assured of honesty and uprightness in all that you did.”
Speaking for the UUP grouping, Cllr James Currie said Mr Bride was a man of vision and hard work.
“In years to come, there is no doubt, you will be remembered for the various play parks, Showgrounds, Ecos...thank-you for all your contributions.”
Cllr Monica Digney described the out-going Deputy Town Clerk and Chief Executive as “always the voice of reason and an absolute gentleman” while fellow Sinn Fein Councillor Paul Maguire remarked that Mr McBride “had a vision for the Showgrounds and I hope that will always be known”.
Jayne Dunlop of Alliance described him as “a visionary” and a man “who inspired enthusiasm in others”.
For Alderman Sam Hanna, Mr McBride proved “a very helpful officer...who always had an answer for you” while Cllr James Henry said he hoped that, in retirement, he would enjoy seeing many of his projects come to fruition.
Responding, Mr McBride said: “From the time I ‘blew in’ from Belfast in 1982, over 30 years ago, I have enjoyed my work, the people who worked with me, my sporting career and of course Ballymena itself.
“I have seen enormous changes in Ballymena, for the better, over those 30 years and, indeed,
this Council has led the way in that regard, supported by a respected team of officers and
workers at all levels.
“I count it as a privilege to have served this Council and the people of Ballymena, starting
as a lowly Assistant Recreation Officer and then in recent years to share the honour of
performing the Chief Executive’s post and latterly the Deputy Chief Executive’s post. I have
enormous respect for the hard work put in by you the elected members and have always
appreciated the difficulties faced by you in your role as councillor – I hope along the way
I and my team managed in some way to alleviate the pressures and sometimes turn ideas
into reality, no matter where they came from.
“Of course people make things happen and I wish to put on record my thanks to all of the
Council teams, behind the scenes in all departments that have assisted with all of the
wonderful projects and services delivered over the years. It is always a corporate effort – no
one department is an island,” said Mr McBride who revealed his retirement will involve more family time, travel and recreation.
Paying tribute in conclusion to Council’s Chief Executive, Anne Donaghy, and to his fellow officers, Mr McBride said: “I know I leave you at the cusp of momentous changes to Local Government but I can confirm you are in good hands.”