We had the pleasure of a visit from former High Sheriff of West Yorkshire, Ed Anderson, and his wife, Her Honour Judge Heather Anderson.
Ed is an accountant by training and his executive career has been in local government and airports. As his talk unfolded, we realised that he has been close to some pivotal moments in recent history. He was working at East Midlands Airport when in 1989 a Boeing 737 crashed on the M1, causing 47 deaths. On a more cheerful note, he was the chief executive at Leeds Bradford Airport when a little airline called Jet2 started up with two planes and seven destinations, building up to the spectacularly successful airline that Yorkshire people know and love today. He saw the rise in budget airlines that followed 9/11 when the major airlines suffered a downturn, and used to enjoy the lively Friday morning departures of stag and hen parties, and the excitement of Leeds United supporters flying to enjoy success in Europe during the glory days.
Ed ceased to be Chief Executive of LBA in 2007, and took on the chairmanship of the Yorkshire Building Society, just in time for the crash of Lehman Brothers, Northern Rock, and the desperate bail outs that followed. Under his chairmanship Yorkshire Building Society prospered and is now the second biggest building society in the country.
Ed is active in a number of other non-executive roles: chairman of the Airport Operators Association, chairman of National Savings and Investments, and he still finds time to be on the board of Opera North, a trustee of the International Piano Competition, and is the Pro-Chancellor of Leeds Trinity University.
In March 2015 his career took a different turn when he became the 42nd High Sheriff of West Yorkshire, an ancient office which dates back to only 1974 in West Yorkshire, but with 1000 years of history behind it in Yorkshire. Ed defined the role as supporting the judiciary and emergency services, and seemed relieved that the duties no longer include accompanying condemned prisoners to the gallows. He has however witnessed a number of murder trials during his year, as well as accompanying the police on the aftermath of a raid of a cannabis farm in Harehills, visiting GCHQ in Scarborough [who knew they were there? A well guarded secret]. He has also rubbed shoulders with our Rotarian Deputy Lieutenant Mike Fox when supporting Royal visits to West Yorkshire.
Ed told us of some charities that have particularly impressed him during his year of office: Caring for life, Cookridge; Street Angels; and the prisoner rehabilitative charities Tempus Novo and In2Out.
Ed gave us a fascinating insight into the broad view of life in Yorkshire he experienced in his year of office. The High Sheriff receives no public funding for his duties, and we are grateful that people like Ed Anderson are prepared to carry on this historic role supporting our public services. He finished his talk by paying tribute to the support he’d enjoyed from his wife Heather, who while working hard as a full time Circuit Judge in Leeds had nevertheless managed to accompany him on 175 engagements during his year as High Sheriff.