Tributes are being paid to Welwyn Hatfield Mayor Lynne Sparks, who's died after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at the age of 51.
Lynne served as a councillor for Hatfield Villages from 2010, and Mayor of Welwyn Hatfield twice: first from May 2015 until May 2016, and again from May 2017 until her death. Lynne was Deputy Mayor from May 2014 until May 2015, and from May 2016 until May 2017. She also served as a councillor for Hatfield Town Council from 2014.
Her many achievements include opening Hatfield Night Shelter, organising the first Multi-Faith Civic Service in the borough in 2016, and raising over £10,000 for the charity Resolve in her first year as Mayor.
Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council's flags are flying at half-mast and a book of condolence has been opened in the Council Offices at Campus East in Welwyn Garden City and at the Housing Office, White Lion House in Hatfield.
Lynne said about her time as a Mayor: "The best bit by far has been meeting all the extraordinary people who are passionate about what they do. There are so many amazing, dedicated, hardworking and talented people who live, work, play and volunteer in our borough."
Other roles Lynne took up to help improve the borough include: Hertswatch Project Officer; School and Children's Centre Governor at Howe Dell School and Children's Centre, and becoming a Dementia Friend Champion.
Writing on Facebook, her husband Ian said: "Lynne's legacy is immense" and "we are unspeakably proud of everything that Lynne is".
He said: "We are devastated to have to tell you that Lynne passed away in our arms at 1845 yesterday evening at Isabel Hospice, Welwyn Garden City.
This has all happened so quickly but Lynne and our family have been deeply touched by the enormous amount of love and support which Lynne has received over the last three weeks from you all.
Lynne’s legacy is immense and, to us, unequaled and we are unspeakably proud of everything that Lynne is. It’s important to Lynne and our family that the strength, determination, kindness, compassion, love and understanding shown by Lynne to everyone she has met throughout her life, that have been so obvious at home and across our community of which Lynne is so proud, be celebrated at this difficult time.
Lynne’s greatest achievement, source of joy, pride, happiness and her greatest legacy - our son Tom and daughters Sian and Myfanwy.
Many people have described Lynne as inspirational; so be inspired, be kind, love without condition and tell the people you love how you feel. Do it today, do it now".
(BELOW: Lynne Sparks pictured with her family)
Chief Executive of Welwyn Hatfield Council, Rob Bridge, paid this tribute: "We are all immensely saddened by this news and our sympathies go out to Lynne's husband, Ian, and her children at this most difficult time.
Lynne had a boundless compassion for others and was a great champion for the many issues she cared deeply about, including addiction, domestic abuse and homelessness. She displayed tireless dedication in her roles as councillor and Mayor, and I know everyone who had the pleasure of meeting her would have been touched by her warm smile and caring nature.
The communities she served will miss her greatly, as will we".
CEO of Welwyn Hatfield based drug and alcohol rehabilitation charity Resolve, Joe Heeney, said: "I would very much like you to know what an incredible lady Lynne was. She was so supportive of Resolve and our work, not just helping raise much needed funds but raising awareness of Resolve's work, not just supporting people with problems with alcohol and/or substance misuse, but supporting the families of addicts to. Lynne went so far above and beyond and was without question the most selfless person I have ever met. Ian her husband was the most supportive of her work and together, they were a formidable force.
Lynne leaves a legacy like no other, in her deeds and the incredible work she has done over the years supporting people from all walks of life, using her position to bring about real and genuine change for those in society who are vulnerable and who so often have the least.
Lynne will be so sadly missed, for what she leaves is a legacy for those who follow to aspire to. Lynne brought hope, aspiration and most of all compassion to us all. Thank You Lynne".
Politicians from all parties in Welwyn Hatfield have also been paying their respects.
:: Conservative MP Grant Shapps Tweeting, saying: "Deeply saddened by the death of Welwyn Hatfield Mayor Cllr Lynne Sparks. A fantastic local councillor, who served twice as the borough's mayor, and a tireless campaigner for many local charities. My thoughts are with Ian and the whole family".
:: Welwyn Hatfield Labour Leader Kieran Thorpe says the news is very upsetting: "I remember when Lynne first came on to the council and you could tell straight away she was someone that wanted to get things down and to help people. Of course, our thoughts and best wishes are with Lynne's family at this incredibly sad time".
:: Councillor Malcolm Cowan, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, said: "As mayor she was superb, both in the council chamber keeping the rest of us all in order, and out in the community representing the council and making everyone she met feel important and loved."
:: The Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner, David Lloyd, has expressed his sadness: "Lynne was a passionate supporter of victims' rights and was an enthusiastic champion of Hertfordshire's victim care centre Beacon, based in Welwyn Garden City.
Her support in helping to promote and publicise the service meant more people were aware of Beacon. My thoughts, and the thoughts of the Beacon team, are with Lynne's family and friends".
Charity worker and former Lib Dem Councillor Michal Siewniak said: "We met many years ago when I first tried to 'promote' the idea of town twinning to the Hatfield Town Council. She worked and supported so many projects which inspired many: International Women's Day, Parliament Week, Peartree Fun Day, 'Civic Debate' at the Onslow School, launch of the Polish Saturday School in Welwyn Garden City. She was always ready to help. She was always happy to listen. She was ALWAYS committed to MAKING a difference. She has never been judgmental but always full of respect for others.
I was so happy when she accepted an invitation from a city of Swidnik in Poland which we visited in October 2015. What an amazing trip it was...Our collaboration and partnership, which opened so many new opportunities, truly began. Her 'popularity' left Welwyn Hatfield borders.
But why was she so unique and special? She was never looking for 'fame and glory'. She was quietly empowering and inspiring people she encountered. She was modest, & humble. A true leader and a 'Community Ambassador'.
Lynne, you were a fantastic wife, mother, Cllr & Mayor. Your legacy will continue and your star will always shine. I feel privileged to have met you. We lost an amazing Champion here on earth but gained a fantastic angel in heaven. Thank you".