Sunderland has a new sheriff in town.
Leighton Group boss Paul Callaghan was formally installed as High Sheriff of Tyne and Wear in a ceremony at Sunderland Minster last night.
Northumbria University's Russell Hewitson was sworn in as Under Sheriff for Newcastle and Rev Chris Howson, from the Minster, will serve as Mr Callaghan's chaplain for his year in office.
Guests at last night's ceremony included Mayor of Sunderland Coun Doris MacKnight; Lord Mayor of Newcastle Coun Linda Wright, Wearside MPs Sharon Hodgson, Julie Elliott and Bridget Phillipson; representatives from the emergency services and business community and many of Mr Callaghan's family and friends.
Paul follows in the footsteps of fellow Music, Arts and Culture Trust board member John Mowbray, who held the post in 2016-17.
"It was a really good turn-out with family and friends coming from far and wide," said Paul.
"I have been a deputy lieutenant for a number of years and I was asked whether I would allow my name to be put forward to be nominated for High Sheriff this year.
"John Mowbray was High Sheriff two years ago and did a fantastic job. He encouraged me to allow my name to be nominated and I was honoured to be picked."
Paul is looking forward to working with community groups across Tyne and Wear and has one area on which he is especially keen to focus: "I am particularly interested in improving literacy," he said.
"It is important that we tackle literacy at an early age but many people also struggle as they grow older.
"I would like to support initiatives that help people to improve their literacy."
A title that predates the judiciary, the police and HMRC, the High Sheriff once had extensive powers including collecting taxes and presiding over courts.
Today, there are 55 High Sheriffs in England and Wales whose role is to support the crown, the judiciary and emergency service, while also promoting the voluntary sector in their county.
The Office of High Sheriff is an independent nonpolitical Royal appointment and principal formal duties include attendance at royal visits in the County and support for Her Majesty’s High Court Judges when on Circuit.
High Sheriffs play an increasingly active and supportive role within their counties in relation to the police and emergency services and in lending encouragement to public sector agencies such as the probation and prison services and to voluntary sector organisations involved in crime reduction and social cohesion.