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Simon Brice is setting out on his year as High Sheriff of Essex with a sense of resolve and a sense of humour.
Taking on the role, which dates back to Anglo Saxon times, is “an honour” says Simon, a farmer, who is proud to be Essex born and bred.
He has become the 841st High Sheriff of Essex and is determined to make current day issues, including domestic abuse, modern slavery, county lines, mental health and rural crime his priorities in his year of office.
“It is a challenge to plan the year ahead, as there are still some uncertainties around COVID restrictions, but I am looking forward to getting out and meeting people face to face as much as I can,” said Simon.
“The voluntary and charity sector and our excellent police, fire and ambulance services, as well as Essex County Council, the unitary authorities and District Councils, have all stepped up to the mark over the past difficult year.
“They all deserve thanks and support as they continue to do a tremendous job to serve the county. I think as High Sheriff it is possible to see things behind the scenes that others don’t have the chance to see. I could be having a discussion with a High Court judge one day, then talking to someone addicted to drugs or a victim of domestic abuse the following day.
“A High Sheriff does not have political allegiance, which I think is important, as people feel they can speak freely in these circumstances. I will be there to give support, to make connections, perhaps open doors and to jolly or cajole where necessary. Even when dealing with difficult issues, I will be doing it with a smile.
“Coming from a family who have farmed near Witham for five generations, we have seen many changes over the years and, just as farming has evolved, Essex will continue to change and adapt as we slowly come out of the COVID pandemic.
“I am looking forward to working with Essex Community Foundation (ECF) who look after the High Sheriffs’ Fund, which gives grants to causes tackling crime and promoting community safety.
“I hope to be able to raise money to add to this fund during the year and as ECF runs the ‘Proceeds of Crime Matched Funding Scheme’ thanks to the support of Essex Police, all donations I receive will be matched on a 2 to 1 basis. This means that for every £2 received ECF will add £1, and if Gift Aid can be claimed it nearly doubles the value of donations.
“It is humbling when you hear how grants from the fund can make a difference to vital volunteer and charity groups and how a little can go a long way in providing help. I am also looking forward to linking with ECF for the High Sheriff’s awards which do a great job towards boosting morale and recognising the excellent work of many organisations in the county.”
Simon has a busy year ahead and he and his wife Emma are planning to hold a garden party in aid of the High Sheriffs’ Fund in September, the same month as their daughter Lucy’s wedding. Their son Oliver is playing an increasing role in running the family’s businesses, allowing Simon more time for his duties as High Sheriff.
“Essex is a remarkable and diverse county, faced with many challenges and I look forward to supporting and working with great people throughout the county in my year of office,” said Simon.