Late councillor for Clare, Hundon and Kedington Jim Meikle was 'a man of ideas' who had 'endless time for all that he met'
When voters go to the polling booths on May 6 to elect a new West Suffolk councillor for the Clare, Hundon and Kedington ward, it will be a moment tinged with sadness.
That is because the vacancy was created following the death of Cllr Jim Meikle, who died on February 22 after representing the ward as an Independent since May 2019. He was 67.
Jim, however, was well known in Clare before becoming a district councillor, with arguably his most significant impact coming when he played a key role in the creation of the Stour Valley Community School (SVCS).
The school opened in 2012, one year after Clare Middle School closed as a result of the Suffolk County Council Schools Organisation Review (SOR), which led to the closure of middle schools.
Jim chaired the Clare & Local Area for Rural Education (C.L.A.R.E) group, which was initially formed in 2008 by concerned parents to fight the middle school closure before then going on to champion the creation of SVCS.
Although C.L.A.R.E morphed into a bigger, more politically active group formed to pursue the retention of a secondary school in Clare, Jim remained heavily involved.
Jim, who was married to Kim and had two daughters, Ashleigh and Harriet, also served as a Clare parish councillor.
George Lovejoy was a fellow member of the C.L.A.R.E committee, and worked alongside Jim.
She said of him: "Jim was passionate about the local schools and the campaign he led as Chair of the C.L.A.R.E group. He was a real family man with a lovely sense of humour, a positive outlook and had a smile and endless time for all who he met. He will be greatly missed by us all."
Another who worked with Jim and others on the bid to form SVCS, was Keith Haisman.
He said: "He was a restless ideas man. He was one of the good guys. One of the true good guys.
"Jim was very enthusiastic. He could always see the right and the just thing to do for a community and the local perspective and especially for the children.
"Without that C.L.A.R.E group, the whole thing would never have happened.
"We really needed that C.L.A.R.E group to move things forward."
Cllr Ian Shipp, leader of the Independent group at West Suffolk Council said of Cllr Meikle: “I truly enjoyed my conversations with Jim over the past couple of years and i always looked forward to catching up with him over the phone, at overview and scrutiny and other council meetings.
“Jim’s enthusiasm and commitment to his role and his passion for his ward was infectious and obvious to see and was inspirational to me and others.
“I’ve had some really heartfelt tributes paid to Jim from members of staff and councillors stating how engaging Jim was, how polite and understanding he was and also how tenacious he was too.
“Jim will be greatly missed by me and many others and i would like to offer my sincere condolences to his wife, his family and his loved ones for their loss."