Luton’s youngest ever mayor has described it as “a privilege to represent the town” she grew up in and is “looking forward to promoting the area” during the next 12 months.
Labour Leagrave councillor Sameera Saleem was formally presented with the robes of office at Luton Borough Council’s annual mayoral investiture ceremony.
Speaking afterwards, she said: “It’s quite nice that youngsters are finally taking over. My family and my support network have been a massive driving force, while growing up watching my father I’ve followed in his footsteps.”
Councillor Saleem aims to tackle knife crime in her year as mayor, saying: “It’s affected many lives, and I want to make a difference, even if it’s something I can start off and then pass the parcel. That would be my ultimate goal.”
Her chosen mayoral charities are Friends of Bright Eyes (FOBE), The Safer Luton Partnership and Macmillan Cancer Support, as councillor Saleem explained: “I wanted to do something a little more localised this year.
“FOBE I chose as it provides support services for children with disabilities, The Safer Luton Partnership goes hand-in-hand with what I’m trying to achieve around knife crime, and MacMillan as my mother had cancer, so it’s a cause close to my heart.”
Born at the Luton and Dunstable Hospital, she attended Maidenhall Primary School and Challney High School, before moving into further education at Barnfield College.
Labour council leader and Lewsey councillor Hazel Simmons, who nominated councillor Saleem as mayor, said: “I’m sure you’ll be an excellent ambassador for our town.
“I’ve known Sameera since she was nine when she accompanied her dad, ex-councillor Raja Saleem, on his mayoral functions as his companion.
“I believe it’s her dad who has influenced her interest in politics and definitely her desire to help others, particularly the most vulnerable in our town. Sameera has lived in Luton her entire life. She has four brothers and a sister.”
Councillor Saleem chairs the local authority’s standards committee, has chaired the Luton Labour group in the past, and works for St Albans-based Bretherton Law.
“Her support and guidance over the years have been essential to me,” added councillor Simmons. “I’m sure she’ll be an excellent representative for the council and the town. I wish her well for the year ahead.”
Labour Leagrave councillor and former mayor Maria Lovell, who seconded councillor Saleem, said: “Sameera has been a Labour Party member since she was 15. She was first elected in 2015 and held the position of deputy mayor in her first year. This experience was fantastic.
“She stood again in 2019 and was re-elected to serve the Leagrave ward. Sameera has always considered it an honour to serve the people of this town and hopes to continue doing so for as long as possible.”
Labour Icknield councillor Asif Masood has been appointed deputy mayor for 2022/23.
Previous mayor and Labour Farley councillor Mahmood Hussain was thanked by councillor Simmons for his hard work, attending 180 events despite the influence of the pandemic.
The meeting was told that £28,409 was raised for his chosen charities.