EALING Town Hall was packed with representatives of different faiths on Tuesday for the investiture of the borough's new mayor Councillor Kamaljit Dhindsa.
The Southall Green Labour councillor donned the civic robes, and stepped into the shoes of councillor Mohammad Aslam, who stood down at the gathering after a fruitful year as Mayor.
Political differences were put aside and all parties came together, with members and leaders from each voicing thanks to Mr Aslam whilst welcoming Mr Dhindsa into his new seat with a standing ovation.
Mr Dhindsa expressed his appreciation, dedication and intentions in a light-hearted speech, bringing laughter into the chamber.
He said: “I can only say thank you for this unique and special opportunity and I think that you must have got the wrong guy. I want to thank my family and friends. Southall made me what I am today; I married and had my children in Ealing.
“Councillor Aslam is going to be a difficult act to follow. I wish I had some of his qualities; his smile and his warmth. For the life of me I cannot smile unless I have had a drink or two.”
The newly appointed mayor said that Ealing is multicultural yet segregated and he wants to make it one integrated borough.
He said its people are warm with generous hearts and that he can think of no better place to live.
Julian Bell, leader of the council, began his moving speech by praising Mr Aslam and telling personal anecdotes of memories with him. He said the previous mayor had lived the Ealing dream, being the first citizen of the borough and fulfilling his duties during a year which saw both the diamond jubilee and the Olympics.
He said: "One of your qualities is to engage with everybody and it’s obvious that you are good at it. You have such an easygoing, kind, friendly manner, you are a wonderful ambassador and a man of the people. We are all proud of the service you have given."
During his year in office Mr Aslam attended more than 450 official engagements and raised approximately £25,000 for his charities; Dementia Concern, Ealing Samaritans and British Institute for Brain Injured Children.
Mr Aslam, the first Muslim councillor and mayor in Ealing, said he felt blessed.
He said: "My first grandson was born when I turned mayor and that was the happiest moment of my life. You never know, he may follow in grandad’s footsteps and wear the mayoral chain in the future."
Mr Dhindsa’s charities include Macmillan Cancer Support, Shooting Star CHASE and Age UK Ealing.
He said: “I am stepping into the shoes of a fantastic mayor, friend and fellow councillor. I am honoured to accept the role of mayor, intend to immerse myself into my civic duties and work hard to raise the profile of my chosen charities.”
Councillor Tej Bagha was made deputy mayor.
New mayor Mr Dhindsa has served 15 years in Ealing; first as a ward councillor for Lady Margaret in 1998, and then representing Southall Green from 2002 and being the council’s cabinet member for customer and community service in 2010.