Why Stewart's Proud to Be Region's High Sheriff; as the New High Sheriff of the West Midlands One of Stewart Towe's Official Duties Will Be to Attend the Inauguration Ceremony of an Elected Mayor in Birmingham, Should Voters in the Region Give the New Position Their Blessing. and, in an Exclusive Interview with Justine Halifax, He Gives the Concept His Tenative Approval
Byline: Justine Halifax
Dudley-born and bred successful businessman Stewart Towe has a list of enviable titles, achievements and accolades under his belt.
The father-of-two is managing director of Smethwick's Hadley Industries, which is one of Europe's largest privately owned cold rolled steel manufacturers, and has a CBE for services to industry in the West Midlands.
And that's not all. An exhaustive list also includes being leader of the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), chairing Business in the Community for the West Midlands Region as well as being its regional ambassador, being chair of Governors at Bromsgrove School and Alexandra High School and Sixth Form Centre in Tipton; a governor of Wolverhampton University, Aston University and Sandwell Academy and also a member of the CBI Manufacturing Council.
Now Mr Towe, one of two sons born to a steel salesman and teacher, can add High Sheriff for the West Midlands to his list.
Along with a long list of duties, his year in office will see him entertaining High Court judges and meeting royalty.
He said: "High Sheriff is a great honour to be charged with. When the role was created a High Sheriff had massive powers.
''He would resolve all disputes, all issues in the county, collect taxes and raise armies. He was really the King's right-hand man.
"But other people do all those sorts of things today so all that's left is the heritage of the role.
"One of the fascinating aspects of the job is the people that I'll come into contact with that I wouldn't normally, like members of the Royal family and High Court judges which I will do over the next 12 months.
"It will be so different to what I do every day, running an engineering group. I'll have a fascinating insight into many different facets of life - like the legal system - and I am excited about it."
If invited, he has the right to sit with a High Court Judge on the Bench - although he cannot interfere in the legal process - and it's an exciting opportunity he's keen to take up.
He added: "This is a very unusual right to have but hopefully if I'm invited I will definitely take up the offer to sit in court because I know very little about the legal process."
While undoubtedly interesting, Mr Towe's set for a busy year in office.
As the region's High Sheriff he will also attend major ceremonies across the West Midlands, which will include the inauguration of an elected mayor in Birmingham if voters give the controversial scheme their backing.
At this early stage the prospect of elected mayors have been dubbed a "bit of a blind date" as it is not known what powers they will be given. But it is a move that has divided the nation and sparked huge debate.
Some fear an elected mayor could be bad for democracy, only serving to give political groups already with a stranglehold on cities more power.
''Others say it would give cities like Birmingham a united voice.
Others believe the role would be far more effective if elected mayors were given powers beyond their city's boundary to enable them to "foster much needed economic growth".
And giving elected mayors a broader base is something 60-yearold Mr Towe, who was officially inaugurated as High Sheriff for the West Midlands last week, is in favour of.
"At the moment we don't know what the Government's intentions are with regards to powers to be given to the elected mayors.
"However, I'm also the chair of the Black Country LEP, and I think a review of what the powers of an elected mayor in Birmingham may be in relation to all LEPs in the area would be an interesting debate.
"Albert Bore has said that businesses believe there should be an LEP for Black Country and Birmingham, but in my view it's not about what businesses want.
"While I think that the concept of an elected mayor is a good idea, we've got to get the boundaries and geography right and at the moment no-one appears to have made any attempt to change the political landscape we sit on, so until people explain how that is going to change it doesn't really matter what businesses think. …