Tributes have been paid to Newmarket councillor Bill Sadler, a constant, often controversial figure in local politics for more than half a century, who died on Tuesday.
Cllr Sadler, who was 81, had served the community at all levels of local government from the former Newmarket Urban District Council which he chaired back in 1974, through its replacement Forest Heath District Council and on Suffolk County Council.
He was also one of only two of the founding councillors of Newmarket Town Council still sitting on the current authority.
“A man who spoke his mind and a man for all of the people of Newmarket.”
That is how, according to his long-time partner Janet Clarke, Bill Sadler like to be remembered.
“He had been involved in so much of the life of the town and he was always thinking of things he could do for people, and the town,” said Mrs Clarke. “His family will miss him very much and I think the town will too.”
Mr Sadler was born and brought up in Yorkshire and was a civil engineer by profession. He moved from the north first to Lincolnshire and then, in 1964 to Adastral Close, where he lived with his late wife, Elaine, who taught at Houldsworth Valley Primary School, son David and daughter Kate.
He worked for the council, helping to design the Houldsworth Valley estate where he lived all his life in Newmarket. His civic career began in the early 1970s. In 1974, as chairman of Newmarket Urban District Council, he joined forces with the late Kenneth Kemp-Turner to oppose the sale of part of the Phantom and Moreton stud estate to the Greater London Council(GLC) to be used for London overspill. His son David remembered: “He got a letter from the then council leader which said he had been the only person to defeat the GLC.”
He later became chairman of Forest Heath District Council and Suffolk County Council and last year was deputy mayor at the town council.
In all his years in local government he was never far away from controversy. He was one of the group of Newmarket councillors, dubbed the Magnificent Seven, who supported charging for parking in Newmarket, a move which was to cost him his council seat, and he was vice-chairman of the county council in 2007 when it pushed through the controversial scrapping of middle schools. Early last year he came under fire for his role as editor of the Newmarket Messenger, a magazine part-funded by the town council, which he admitted ‘he might make a few pounds’ out of and, in May 2016, he was kicked out of the Conservative Party for nominating non-Tory candidates in a town council by-election.
Away from local government he was chairman of the Newmarket branch of the Royal British Legion and had been fighting hard to keep it going in the face of dwindling numbers. He was also a former member of the Newmarket Town Band.
His fellow town councillor, Mick Jefferys, who like him was a founding member of the town council, said the pair had ‘never been afraid to voice their disagreements in robust terms’.
“Bill and I have been political opponents for 35 years but over the years there has grown a mutual respect,” he said. “This is particularly true concerning the democratic processes of the town council, in which we were both sticklers for upholding the rules. Bill has worked tirelessly for his community as a town, district and county councillor for more than 50 years. He was a great servant of both the people and democracy. He will be sorely missed.”
Newmarket mayor Cllr Andy Drummond said: “Bill was a long-standing councillor, representing town, district and county over his many years of public service. We didn’t always get on, but I always respected him as an ally or adversary, depending upon how things stood at the time. One thing I do know – we shall all miss him at council.
Cllr James Waters, leader of Forest Heath District Council, said: “We are all shocked to lose such a dear friend and a much-respected colleague.”
Mr Sadler’s funeral service will be at Newmarket’s St Mary’s Church on Thursday, June 1, at 12.30pm. Family flowers only have been requested with donations going to local charities which will be decided by the family.