Tributes paid following death of 'warm and polite' Redbourn councillor

St Albans District councillor photographs by Pete Stevens May 2010

Independent Councillor for Redbourn, Tony Swendell, has sadly died aged 80. - Credit: Pete Stevens

Friends and colleagues have paid tribute to Redbourn's independent councillor, Tony Swendell, who has died at the age of 80.

Tony passed away on February 20 after reportedly suffering from Parkinson's disease for some time.

He served as a councillor after retiring from Herts police, having formerly served as Chief Superintendent on the force. Tony served at various locations around the county and spent a considerable amount of his service in CID.

He also headed up the Criminal Investigations Department, and spoke openly about his involvement in the aftermath of the IRA bombing near the Alban Arena in November 1991.

During his time as an independent and parish councillor for Redbourn, Cllr Swendell pledged his support to 'Respect on Redbourn Road', in a bid to improve the safety and mutual respect between motorists and cyclists using the road.

Cllr Chris White, leader of St Albans district council, said: "I've known Tony for the best part of 28 years, both as a senior police officer of the traditional school and most particularly as a councillor.

"He was his own man but warm and polite at all times, and never slow to make it clear what he thought and to stand up for the residents of Redbourn village.

“Tony, as you might expect of a former Chief Superintendent with Herts police, took a particularly keen interest in the work of our community safety team and often dropped in to their office to have a chat with them.

“It's not a cliché to say that I will miss him as will so many. Our thoughts are with his family at this time.”

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The Herts branch secretary of the National Association for Retired Police Officers (NARPO) said: "Our thoughts are with Tony’s family, his friends and former colleagues at this very difficult time."

Former police colleague David Kelly QPM recounted his relationship with Tony, first meeting him on his transfer to Herts police in 1993: "At the time, he was the Chief Superintendent in charge of area policing and on discovering that I too lived in Redbourn, he went out of his way to welcome me to the force which I was very grateful for, and we remained best of friends ever since.

"Tony was a real local hero to the people of St Albans and in particular to his beloved Redbourn. As an Independent member, he was not bound by party affiliations and could concentrate on doing his best to resolve issues for his constituents. He simply would not give up on an issue and in terrier like fashion, would pursue it until a positive outcome was achieved.

"At the same time, he was charm personified and with his reputation as an honest broker, he was rightly respected on all sides. We will all miss him greatly."

Upon learning of Tony's intention to retire, David Kelly nominated Tony for civil honour to commemorate the 60 years he dedicated to serving the public. Sadly, Tony died before a any decision regarding his honour could be made. 

In the nomination, David addressed the multitude of successes Tony achieved throughout his career: "His selfless generosity with his time and patients for his residents; his honesty and integrity; have together with his cheerful and affable personality made him a local hero.

"All of us that know him agree that although he would not dream of seeking anything for himself, a civil honour would be a fitting tribute to this man who has spent the greater part of his life dedicated to public service."

Redbourn Parish Council chairman and fellow independent councillor, Cllr David Mitchell, recounted his first meeting of Tony, after his family and house were badly affected in the Buncefield fuel depot blast of 2005: "I realised what a lovely man that he was, and how dedicated he was to helping local residents.

"Well, to be honest, he was one of the reasons I thought I'd get into local politics myself. It's partly because of meeting Tony and seeing what Tony was doing that interested me. So, I have to say that I owe him a lot both privately and in terms of my councillor career.

"To be honest, if you ask anyone in Redbourn, you'll see how fond they were of him, and how much people are missing him now that he's gone. I would describe him as a local hero. He was one of thse people who always had time for you, always helped you with your problems, and didn't just leave you in the lurch; he followed everything up and got back to you, and made things happen.

He continued to applaud his work as a councillor: "He was instrumental in getting those 50mph speed limits on some dangerous bends locally. He was just one of these people that was very calm and relaxed all the time, but was also very energetic. He dedicated himself to doing things; I don't think you'll find anyone that's got a bad word for him."

Cllr Malachy Packenham fondly recalled his relationship with Tony, both as a police officer and councillor: "He represented Redbourn fiercely, and cherished his independence. He had little time for party shenanigans on the council, and pretty much made his own mind up about stuff. He was pretty impervious to that.

"Certainly, he put Redbourn first, and as an independent, you might expect him to."

Cllr Packenham continued to praise Tony's old-fashioned police attitude, and shared that he used to motivate his officers at night by removing heaters out of their cars.

"He had a sense of humour and was a very fair minded person. I never had a cross word with him when he was a police officer or councillor, and I'm sorry that he didn't live long enough to retire. We all would have loved to have made him an honorary alderman to mark the fact that he'd spent 21 years on the council, which was no mean feat in itself.

"A large amount of public service given to Redbourn, St Albans and Hertfordshire, and he's certainly someone that I will miss on the council."

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