HE’S relatively new to politics, just two years in the job, but already Mark Baxter has been catapulted into Craigavon Council’s top civic position.
The 34-year-old was elected onto council with 757 first preference votes and soon this new boy made his mark, taking on influential posts on various committees.
However his election as the fourth DUP mayor in a row has been slated by nationalists who accused unionist councillors of a ‘sectarian carve-up’. An accusation Mayor Baxter denies, saying Sinn Fein councillors are ‘not showing the maturity that they should be showing’.
“We have a lot of civic roles throughout the year, and in terms of Remembrance Sunday they are not going to represent the ratepayer on occasions like that. They are always attacking the Orange Order and the unionist culture, particularly in Portadown, so we don’t feel as a council group that they are ready to take those positions.”
Mark believes it is the providence of God that has brought him to the Mayoral position.
Married to Joanna for the past six years, the couple have two daughters Charlotte, aged four and Faith, aged two.
While living in Annaghmore, he went to Craigavon Training Centre (now the Southern Regional College) where he studied electrical engineering.
He served an apprenticeship with Moy Park as a maintenance technician and still works as an engineer in technical sales and consultancy.
With a business background, Mayor Baxter plans to focus on the local economy during his year in office.
“We are still experiencing tough economic times globally so the primary focus for me will be to showcase this borough wherever possible and concentrate on the economic development of it. With the public realm works complete in Portadown and the Lurgan works nearing completion it is vital we can work toward rejuvenating our town centres.”
Mayor Baxter plans to work towards a market in Lurgan this year. Plus with Portadown 400 celebrations planned, he says there is no better year to showcase both town centres.
Mark’s father, Rev Trevor Baxter is a Free Presbyterian Minister and with his mum Mary, the family travelled around Northern Ireland but for the past seven years Mark’s home has been in Donaghcloney. He feels rural villages need to be focussed on. “Sometimes residents in those areas can feel isolated from civic life so I am making a commitment to champion those areas wherever possible.”
Mark takes a keen interest in the council accounts and often takes officers to task over large pay outs. He plans to work for the ratepayer ‘and try to be as frugal as possible in terms of protecting that very important public purse’.
The DUP man said he will ‘strive to each out to all members of this community and represent them to the best of my ability’.
“I don’t underestimate the task that lies ahead and be in no doubt that I will put my heart and soul into this important position. From this chair I will be impartial.
“I look forward to building stronger working relationships with all council staff,” said Mark who is chairman of Craigavon DUP branch.