The Chairman

As the civic and ceremonial head of the authority, the role of the Chairman is to uphold the democratic values of the council as a whole and represent the council at civic and ceremonial functions.

Current Chairman is Gary Cooke

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Chairman of Kent County Council, Gary Cooke - video transcript

Gary Cooke was elected to the County Council in June 2009 as the Conservative Member for Maidstone South East.

He is a retired Insurance Executive with a specialty in aviation and satellite underwriting and worked in the London and Lloyds markets from 1968 to 1995.

A father of three, he relocated with his family to Bermuda in 1995 and was part of an international team of business executives that helped grow a small insurance company employing 40 people, into a global insurer with offices in over 50 different countries. Mr Cooke returned to the UK 2003 and immediately became involved in local affairs.

His political career dates from when he was a member of the Young Conservatives during which time he was elected to the National Executive and represented the Conservative Party on the British Youth Council. He was first elected as a local councillor in 1979, serving as a member of Sevenoaks District Council until 1987.

Since being elected to Kent County Council Mr Cooke has served on the following committees:

  • Children's, Young People and Education Cabinet Committee (also as Chairman)
  • Corporate Parenting Panel
  • County Council (current Chairman)
  • Electoral and Boundary Review Committee (also as Chairman)
  • Policy and Resources Cabinet Committee
  • Scrutiny Committee
  • Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee
  • Governance and Audit
  • Maidstone Joint Transportation Board.

He was Cabinet Member for Corporate and Democratic services from 2013 to 2017 and was an active member of Kent’s adoption panels for many years. He still maintains an active interest in Kent’s adoption and fostering services, as well as Kents other youth services and serves as Chairman of Maidstone’s Local Children’s Partnership Group.

Gary serves as a trustee of Fusion in Maidstone where the youth club he instigated continues to thrive. He is also a trustee of the Vinters Valley Nature Reserve.

Mr Cooke is a keen sportsman enjoying most sports though these days he emphasises the enjoyment comes from spectating rather than a participatory capacity. He is a former Class 1 football referee and was honoured to be invited by FIFA to officiate an international U21 tournament while he was living in Bermuda.


Vice Chairman is Bryan Sweetland

Now retired, Bryan Sweetland was a senior manager in the telecommunications industry, working in UK, Europe, USA and Bermuda.

He has served as a non executive director of a number public organisations including NHS West Kent Primary Care Trust, Kent Community Health Trust and various KCC Commercial Services companies.

He was a Councillor at Gravesham Borough Council from 2007 to 2015 and served as Cabinet Member for Business and the Town Centre.

In May 2009, he was elected to Kent County Council, initially serving as Deputy Cabinet Member for Business Services before holding various Cabinet positions including

  • Highways, Environment and Waste
  • Commercial and Traded Services
  • People, Partnerships and Communication.

He has represented KCC on the Rochester Bridge Trust and the Kent Fire and Rescue Authority.

Bryan is a past President of Gravesend and Meopham Rotary Club and during the COVID-19 pandemic worked as a NHS volunteer at the Gravesend mass vaccination centre. At KCC, he is proud to represent the Gravesham Rural Division.

The Chairman is the civic and ceremonial head of Kent County Council, and represents the council at many events in Kent and the South East. The role of the Chairman is to uphold the democratic values of the council as a whole and represent the council at civic and ceremonial functions.

The Chairman and Vice-Chairman are elected annually by the county council.


The duties of the Chairman and Vice-Chairman are to:

  • chair the full council meetings
  • receive petitions at county council meetings
  • host a programme of civic and ceremonial events throughout the course of the year
  • attend citizenship ceremonies to give the Welcome to Kent Community address to new citizens of Kent
  • become Chairman of Kent Volunteers Advisory Group, and as such an ambassador for volunteering
  • become a trustee of The Kent Foundation to provide a link between the foundation and Kent County Council and look for opportunities where The Kent Foundation might help the future of disadvantaged young people in Kent
  • become Honorary President of the Kent Active Retirement Fellowship – an organisation for retired public sector staff to meet with former colleagues and colleagues.

To invite the Chairman to an event, contact us with:

  • a brief outline of the event
  • details of any points that the Chairman should include in the opening address or thanking response
  • dress code for the occasion
  • time of arrival and departure
  • the name of the person who will meet the Chairman
  • car parking arrangements.

Send your invitation to the Civic Office:

Official order of precedence for civic dignitaries

Except for royal visits, it is not necessary for all the civic dignitaries to be invited to a function, but where any are invited this order of precedence must be followed:

  • Lord Lieutenant of Kent
  • High Sheriff of Kent
  • Chairman of Kent County Council
  • Mayor or Chairman of the borough or district in which the event takes place
  • Borough or district Chief Executive
  • Town Mayor of the town in which the event takes place
  • Member of Parliament for the constituency in which the event takes place
  • Member of the European Parliament for the constituency in which the event takes place
  • Chief Constable of Kent.

If an event is hosted by a borough council, or relating to a particular borough, the mayor of that borough and the borough chief executive take precedence over the Chairman of Kent County Council.

Visiting members of the royal family take precedence over all civic dignitaries, but other visiting dignitaries, including Mayors of other boroughs, normally take precedence after those listed above.

Eight districts in Kent have borough or city status, and have Mayors as their civic heads, except Canterbury, which has a Lord Mayor. The remaining four districts (Dover, Sevenoaks, Shepway and Thanet) have Chairmen rather than Mayors as their civic heads.

Medway is a unitary authority that has a Mayor as its civic head.

The correct way to refer to the Chairman formally in writing is "The Chairman of Kent County Council, Mr/Mrs [NAME]"

The correct way to refer to the Chairman verbally is "The Chairman of Kent County Council, Mr/Mrs [NAME]"

After formal introductions, speakers are asked to refer to the Chairman as "The Chairman".

Address the Chairman in a preamble to a speech as "Mr/Madam Chairman".

Except where the Leader of the Council invites a local Member of Parliament or other eminent civic dignitary to perform a ceremonial function (including the opening of new highways, schools or other county council buildings or facilities) the Chairman (or Vice-Chairman) would attend and perform the ceremonial event and, if called upon, give a brief speech of thanks.

The Cabinet Portfolio Holder, Deputy Cabinet Member, Corporate Director, Committee Chairman or nominated senior officer, whilst acknowledging the precedence of the Chairman, should make a professional speech, describing the project.

The accepted etiquette at ceremonial events or functions that the Chairman has been invited to is for the senior member or officer attending and responsible for the event to welcome the Chairman on arrival and extend the arrival courtesies and introductions as appropriate to the dignity of the office.

  • Lesley Game 2022 to 2023
  • Ann Allen 2021 to 2022
  • Graham Gibbens 2020 to 2021
  • Ann Allen 2019 to 2020
  • Mike Angell 2018 to 2019
  • David Brazier 2017 to 2018
  • Tom Gates 2016 to 2017
  • Mike Harrison 2015 to 2016
  • Peter Homewood 2014 to 2015
  • Eric Hotson 2013 to 2014
  • Richard King 2012 to 2013
  • Paulina Stockell 2011 to 2012
  • Bill Hayton 2010 to 2011
  • John Davies 2009 to 2010
  • Peter Lake 2008 to 2009
  • Leyland Ridings 2007 to 2008
  • Fred Wood-Brignall 2006 to 2007
  • John London 2005 to 2006
  • Kent Tucker MBE 2004 to 2005
  • Frank Gibson OBE 2003 to 2004
  • Chris Capon MBE 2002 to 2003.