East Sussex County Council officers and councillors stood for a minute's silence before today's meeting of the ruling Cabinet to remember Conservative councillor Rupert Simmons who died at home yesterday.
Cllr Simmons was a long-serving and highly-experienced councillor, representing Heathfield and Mayfield division and serving as Lead Member for Economy.
Council Leader Keith Glazer paid tribute to Cllr Simmons' service to the council and residents of East Sussex. He said that the council has lost a good friend and colleague, and reminded members of the good work which Rupert had done for the Cabinet and the wider county.
Rupert Simmons attended secondary school at Christ College in Brecon, before graduating from Reading University with an honours degree in Estate Management. He practiced as a Chartered Surveyor in Surrey, until travelling in Europe.
He worked in an advertising business in Oslo and then formed a music business in Vienna that was a great success, before going on to recreate it in Connecticut in the USA. Rupert's involvement in politics began when he subsequently worked in the Democrat Presidential Campaign Team for Vice-Presidential Candidate, Walter Mondale.
Returning to the UK, he worked at London Weekend Television before joining the Observer newspaper where he rose to the Management Executive and became Publisher of the Colour Supplement. In 1989 he became a Partner, and Published the Investment Trusts magazine.
In 1990, Rupert moved to Waldron in East Sussex. He was elected to Heathfield & Waldron Parish Council in 1997 and to Wealden District Council in 1999. In 2001 he was elected to East Sussex County Council and became the Cabinet Member for Education. He went on to become Chairman of the County Council from 2009-2011 and was appointed Cabinet Member for the Economy in 2013; a cabinet role that he continued until his death.
Under Rupert's stewardship, the economy of East Sussex grew by 23% in GVA terms in the seven years prior to the onset of the pandemic. He has played an instrumental role in raising and attracting over £600 million in investment into the County. His other major achievement was to create the Skills Board in 2014, which brings Industry Leaders and Education providers together in a coordinated effort to raise the aspirations of our Students and increase the productivity of our local population.
In his own division, Rupert has chaired the Heathfield Partnership Trust for 20 years; its leading success has been the raising of £1 million for the High Street and the creation of the www.heathfield.net web-site. He was also a prime mover in the Heathfield Works Initiative in 2011, which has subsequently expanded into the Wealden Works operation. Its success rates of 96% in converting NEETs into positive careers has outperformed any such organisation in the UK.
Rupert was a member of All Saints church in Waldron and interested in Music, Sport and Travel.
East Sussex County Council will pay a full tribute at its next Full Council meeting.