A LONG-serving former Exeter councillor has become an honorary alderman.

Yolonda Henson stepped down in May, more than 40 years after first being elected to the city council.

Since then, she was mayor, deputy lord mayor, and last year ended her time on the council by serving as lord mayor – a politically-neutral, ceremonial role.

The position of alderman is a ceremonial honour that does not entitle holders to special privileges or voting powers, but means they can attend civic functions and council meetings.

First elected in 1979, Mrs Henson – who represented the Conservatives – served for a total of 39 years with just one year of broken service in 1982.

Recommending her for the honour, the city council said it was “in recognition of her outstanding service”.

Speaking at an extraordinary meeting of the council on Tuesday, July 18, where the title was agreed, leader of the Conservative group, Cllr Anne Jobson (St Loye’s), described Mrs Henson as a “true servant” of the city.

“She’s lived in Exeter throughout her life. She grew up in the city, was educated in the city, has worked in the city and has undertaken her public service in the city,” she said.

Current lord mayor, Cllr Kevin Mitchell, added: “I got to know Yolonda extremely well over my years on the council … and although we were of different views on many things, she was always incredibly respectful.”

Addressing colleagues in April at her last council meeting, Mrs Henson told her former colleagues to “look after” the city.

“It has been 40 years of my life and you don’t know how I’m going to miss it,” she added. “I’ve met lovely people coming and going and I love you dearly.”

Councillors unanimously approved the honorary title.