In a gripping development, Ross-on-Wye Town Council have elected James Vidler as their newest representative for the Ross East Ward, through co-option. Vidler, a candidate with a flair for entrepreneurship and robust ties to the Liberal Democrats, was selected in the first round of council votes, negating the need for any secondary ballot.

Vidler, in his fervent pitch to the council, outlined his vision for Ross, underpinned by his impressive business background. “I may be a Liberal Democrat, but I am committed to bipartisan cooperation with other councils,” he declared. Although no longer residing in Ross, Vidler remains committed to the town’s future, drawing upon his years of experience in the hospitality and tourism sectors.

He recounted his journey as a business owner, starting with a wine bar in Southern Ireland 40 years ago, before moving back to England. His ventures have included expanding a knitting rooms operation, and transforming The King's Head from a struggling 2-star to a flourishing 3-star hotel with an award-winning restaurant. His latest endeavour, the development of the Corn Exchange into a lively venue complete with live entertainment and its own microbrewery, encapsulates his innovative approach.

Aiming to leverage these experiences in his new role, Councillor Vidler is keen to serve on the Community, Market, and Tourism Committee. “I believe my years in business and hospitality can be a great asset to the council,” he confidently stated.

The selection process, which was held as an anonymous ballot, was a departure from past traditions where public votes were cast. This approach was implemented following advice received on councillor training.

Mayor Louis Stark expressed his gratitude towards all candidates and encouraged future participation. However, Vidler’s election has sparked speculations among some members of the public, suggesting that the Liberal Democrats may be using this as an opportunity to strengthen their numbers within the council. These speculations, however, can only remain as such due to the anonymity of the vote.

Several Lib Dem councillors who voted for Vidler have voiced their reasons. Cllr Ed O’Driscoll highlighted Vidler’s business acumen and his previous candidature as crucial factors. “His enthusiasm for the role is evident and I look forward to benefiting from his expertise on the council,” said O’Driscoll. Cllr Setchfield also welcomed the business knowledge Vidler brings to a council that currently lacks such expertise.

With the Liberal Democrats holding the majority of seats, their preference for a candidate who aligns with their values, is known by current councillors, and who will work constructively with the current council, is to be expected.

The co-option was necessary due to an insufficient number of volunteers stepping forward for the local elections held in May. Vidler’s selection reiterates the need for greater civic participation and serves as a reminder that even one more volunteer could make a significant difference in shaping the future of the council.