Who is Weston's mayor Cllr Sonia Russe?

Mayor Cllr Sonia Russe outside the Mayor's Parlour in Grove Park. Picture: Charlie Williams.

Mayor Cllr Sonia Russe outside the Mayor's Parlour in Grove Park. Picture: Charlie Williams. - Credit: Archant

Grove House is now home to Weston's new mayor, but who is she and what does she do?

In May, a unanimous vote on the council made Sonia Russe mayor, making her one of the only women to ever hold the role.

Weston's mayor Cllr Sonia Russe sat at her desk in the Mayor's Parlour.

Weston's mayor Cllr Sonia Russe pictured at her desk in the Mayor's Parlour. Picture: Charlie Williams. - Credit: Archant

First elected in 2011, and then re-elected in 2019 as a Conservative councillor for mid-Worle, Sonia can now usually be found sporting a cap with Weston-super-Mare sewn across its front, or on official business around town. 

She is described as an 'illustrious' woman on many counts, but not so much is known of her life and successes.

In an exclusive interview with your Mercury, Cllr Russe spills the proverbial beans on public life, her upbringing, singlehood, interests and plans for the future.   

Who is Cllr Sonia Russe?

(L-R) Leoni Green, mayor Cllr Sonia Russe and Clare.

(L-R) Leoni Green, mayor Cllr Sonia Russe and Clare Green. - Credit: Archant

Born in 1944 on the cusp of allied victory in Europe, the 78-year-old has worked in many jobs; litter picking ambassador, oversaw the Post Office's conversion and even flirted with hotel management for a short period.

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Sonia grew up in Montpelier, Bristol, with her older brother and married at the age of 17. She later divorced her husband and from the age of 27 has lived alone. She now has two children, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. 

Weston's mayor Cllr Sonia Russe and her consort David Ray outside M&S Food Hall at Flowerdown Retail Park.

Weston's mayor Cllr Sonia Russe and her consort David Ray with Percy Pig in M&S Food Hall at Flowerdown Retail Park. - Credit: WTC

Sonia doesn't possess much of a Bristolian tongue but, curiously, she says her grandchildren have now developed 'a strong Bristolian accent' due to their love of the TV series Little Britain.

Her parents had Sonia late in life and so by right of birth, her father was in fact a Victorian.

During the First World War, her parents Linda and Harold had disagreed on what to name their baby girl, but a German prisoner of war - who was ordered to work on their farm - suggested the name of Sonia.

In 2007, Cllr Russe moved to Weston 'to be by the sea'.

She explained the town has a 'fantastic beach, amazing transport links to Bristol, and has such amazing, friendly people'.

Sonia said: "I think during my 15-year political career, I must've knocked on every door in Weston and I can say without a doubt, the number of people who were rude can be counted on just one hand - it's an amazing asset for the town to have."

Sonia as Mayor of Weston-super-Mare

Councillor Sonia Russe Weston-super-Mare Town Mayor 2022/2023 with her Cadet

Mayor Cllr Russe appoints her cadet. - Credit: Heidin Burton ABIPP

"It is the greatest honour of my life to have been chosen as Weston's first citizen," Sonia said.

"I absolutely love Weston, its stunning beach, heritage, and people are all a huge step-up from Bristol, and it makes me very proud to call this place my home.

"Since May, I've had the opportunity to work with amazing organisations like opening the Mead Vale specialist autism centre, working with Weston Pride organisers, and more recently pouring pints at the Lion's Real Ale and Cider Festival on the weekend."

Weston's mayor Cllr Sonia Russe pulling pints at Weston Lions Real Ale and Cider Festival.

Weston's mayor Cllr Sonia Russe pulling pints at Weston Lions Real Ale and Cider Festival. - Credit: WTC

Without a consort, Cllr Russe chose her long time friend and neighbour David Ray to help see her through the year.

Sonia paid special tribute to her nominated charity, North Somerset Parent Carers Working Together Forum (NSPCWT), for their 'dedicated commitment' to working with families of children with additional needs.

"They're a charity that does so much for our community who are in need of help and direction," she added.

An adept seaman, and member of the Weston Bay Yacht Club, Sonia is working with the NSPCWT and the club to offer children a chance to experience the helm of a boat and try new experiences at sea.

The NSPCWT provide support to parents and carers with children up to the age of 25 that have an emerging, additional, or disability need through signposting families, hosting regular coffee mornings and holding training sessions.

Weston's mayor Cllr Sonia Russe and her consort David Ray with her chosen charity, NSPCWT.

Weston's mayor Cllr Sonia Russe and her consort David Ray with her chosen charity, NSPCWT. - Credit: WTC

Its chair and CEO, Kenton Mee, said: "Being the mayor's charitable organisation for the year is a great opportunity for us to raise the profile of our work with parent-carers and helps to raise much-needed funds to support their wellbeing."

Sonia is also a keen advocate for environmental issues and insists on walking 'almost everywhere'. She litter picks everyday on the way to work too.

Weston's mayor Cllr Sonia Russe pictured beside a portrait of Weston's first mayor Henry Butt.

Weston's mayor Cllr Sonia Russe pictured beside a portrait of Weston's first mayor Henry Butt. Picture: Charlie Williams. - Credit: Archant

How does the mayor plan to improve Weston?

"As mayor, I'm committed to advancing the five pillars of our town council," Sonia said.

"They are cleaner and greener; image and pride; healthier and happier; heritage, arts and culture; and a better future economy.

"With these in mind, Weston will become not only the best place to live in North Somerset, but in all of the South West.

Weston's mayor Cllr Sonia Russe at Weston Air Festival.

Weston's mayor Cllr Sonia Russe at Weston Air Festival. - Credit: WTC

In the future, Sonia hopes to use her knowledge of the sea to teach young children on the dangers of water.

"I want to spread the love I felt for our town when I first moved here, so everybody can feel the same joy.

"We've got so much going on this year and with the arrival of See Monster, which is sure to bring visitors in their hundreds-of-thousands, everyone's got something to do.

"Working with my chosen charity and the council's key stakeholders, I'm sure the next year and our future will be very bright indeed."