IN this job, I so often wonder what makes a good leader, what makes a good community builder, and want makes a good public servant.
In divisive and unstable times like these, good leaders must maintain clarity of thought amid deafening cries from either side of a debate. They must put purpose before popularity.
Good community builders must see the skills, assets and culture around them, and bring them together to forge a better future around common interests. They must put people before power.
Good public servants must be driven to daily do their best to improve lives and life chances for people they may never meet, stretching their resources as far as possible to protect the vulnerable, enrich lives, and improve futures. The must put service before self-interest.
Nobody in Tameside embodied these roles and values more dutifully and ably than Kieran Quinn. The whole borough remains shocked by the tragic news that Kieran Quinn, executive leader of Tameside Council, died on Christmas Day following a heart attack on Saturday, December 23.
He died just as he lived, serving his community, delivering Christmas cards to his residents. I know that his wife Sue, and sons Liam and Matthew have been bowled over by the widespread extensions of sympathy, with heartfelt tributes pouring in from across the country and beyond.
Kieran was my friend and my ally, somehow who could be relied upon to strive for a solution to the toughest of problems. As a councillor, he was hands on, for many years co-ordinating Tameside Labour’s campaigning efforts, writing our leaflets himself, instituting year round door knocking, and refusing to engage with residents only at election times.
Assuming the leadership in 2010, he led the council through most difficult period in the history of local government, with Government cuts making tough choices a daily reality. Kieran had to make some difficult calls, which didn’t always make him popular.
I didn’t agree with him about every single issue, but that is true of all strong, decisive leaders. His guiding motto when forced to navigate the impossible path of austerity was to prioritise local jobs and services, and to do more with less to the extent that this was possible. I have known people quibble with unenviable choices Kieran had to make in our behalf, but I have never for a second heard anyone doubt his motives or question his integrity. Kieran was born to serve, born to graft, and born to lead.
Kieran’s legacy will live on in a generation of children achieving better GCSE results, in major regeneration projects like Vision Tameside, and in better public engagement through his regular blog and consultation exercises like the Budget Simulator.
It will live on in better transport connections, new homes, and new leisure facilities. It will live on in new local industries, bold culture projects and integrated health and social care. It will live on in our market places, our Christmas cabins, our lantern parades.
Kieran also be remembered across the region for his role leading Greater Manchester Pension Fund, which includes a 10-per-cent stake in Manchester Airport, and nationally, as the chair of Local Authority Pension Fund Forum, through which he pushed for more socially responsible investment.
I know from the innumerable kind messages I have received as shadow economic secretary that Kieran was as well regarded throughout the financial services industry as he was here in Tameside.
Kieran was a working man who went on to lead both a council and a community. He was a political animal, a pragmatic fixer of problems, a strategic mind and an empathetic mentor.
But most of all, he was a loving husband and a very proud dad. As we lay him to rest this month, his death leaves a hole in Tameside that no boots may ever quite fill. I will miss him. And when the regular challenges of leadership furrow my brow, I will think of Kieran, and what true public service looks like.