TRIBUTES have been paid to Margaret Alexander – the first female Vale Mayor and Council Leader - following her death, aged 73, on Saturday (May 26).

Cllr Alexander had represented the Buttrills ward of Barry since 1995 and served as Vale Mayor in 2005/2006. She was the Vale Labour party leader from December 2006 to May 2008, during which time she was in charge of the Vale Council Labour-led coalition.

The Barry-born former teacher worked in secondary schools in Birmingham and London, before retiring and returning to Barry.

She said her main purpose in becoming a politician was to ‘play a part in attempting to reduce inequality, particularly among the young, so that they could begin their lives from a level playing field and make the best of their life chances’.

She was also a member of the Corporate Parenting Panel and Chair of the Domestic Abuse Forum - two roles she felt were extremely important.

She had been chair of governors at St. Richard Gwyn school and was a governor at High Street and Gladstone Primary schools.

She was re-elected to serve as ward member for Buttrills in this month’s elections (May 3), but died suddenly at Llandough Hospital following a short illness.

Fellow ward councillor and Vale Council deputy leader, Cllr Stuart Egan said her death had been a huge shock.

"Margaret was a very special person who worked tirelessly for the community, standing up for justice and battling inequality," he said.

"Margaret and I were first elected in 1995 and we always supported each other. She will be remembered for her amazing achievements over those 17 years as a councillor, but I will also remember her as my dearest friend."

Vale Council leader, Cllr Neil Moore said he was ‘utterly devastated’ by the news.

"Margaret was a wonderful person who would take on any issue, particularly if it affected the most vulnerable in our community, and always championed the cause of those most in need," he said.

"She could be feisty when she wanted to be, but she was also one of the most caring people I have ever met.

"She excelled when striving to beat adversity, as demonstrated when she found alternative venues for the pensioner group, now nicknamed ‘the Castaways’, who were no longer able to attend Rondel House in Barry. Through the help of Margaret and others, they found a new venue where they are happy.

"This was typical of the way in which Margaret reacted to such issues. She would never stop until a solution could be found to a problem."

Cllr Moore said Margaret had broken the mould by becoming the first female Vale mayor and also the first female Leader of the council.

"She undertook both roles with modesty and dedication," he added.

"I had the greatest pleasure in working with her during those years, and I was looking forward to continuing that partnership in the new Vale Council.

"She will be sadly missed, but there is no doubt her legacy and reputation will not be forgotten." Vale Labour party secretary and fellow councillor, Chris Elmore said he would remember Margaret for her infectious sense of humour.

"Her quips could bring whole meetings to a standstill, and she always removed tension from a situation with laughter," he said.

"Her total commitment to her constituents in Buttrills ward is something I have tried to follow in my own work. Her courage and commitment to the Labour movement, women's issues, social justice and equality were all things I admired about her.

"Her own achievements, including becoming the Council's first female leader and Mayor, were incredible - yet she was always humble about them," he added.

"Margaret was the type of person who just didn't stand by and watch the vulnerable suffer - she got stuck in and I know nothing gave her more pleasure than helping people. We will miss her dreadfully.

"My heart goes out to her family, her partner Yvonne, and brother-in-law Brian."

Vale AM Jane Hutt said: "Margaret Alexander was a remarkable person, who was greatly loved and admired in Barry for her unstinting commitment and dedication to her work.

"She was a great support and inspiration to me, from the day I was elected. Completely clear and honest about her principles, values and convictions, she stood up for social justice and fair play.

"As Chair of the Vale Women’s Forum, she campaigned tirelessly for women’s rights and equality, and was the inspiration behind the Dorothy Rees Memorial Lecture, remembering the Labour MP who - like Margaret - was born and brought up in Barry and served her town with distinction.

"I always found Margaret’s wise advice and sound judgement irrefutable," added the Assembly Member.

"She had unswerving loyalty to her colleagues, but was clear and uncompromising with her advice and guidance. She was admired by all who knew and worked with her across the political spectrum, and greatly respected.

"She will go down in history as one of the most remarkable women of Barry."

Vale Conservative MP, Alun Cairns, said his deepest sympathy went out to Margaret’s family and friends. "Margaret was an exceptionally hard working councillor and someone I respected enormously," he said.

"The recent election result showed how well people locally thought of her. She will be sadly missed by many in Barry and beyond."

Llantwit First Independent Cllr Gwyn John said: "Margaret was a good friend and colleague whom I shall miss.

"It was Margaret who invited me to be a part of the coalition Cabinet in 2006 and it was an honour for me to work with her. She always gave me great support and I can honestly say that the friendship built up among the coalition Cabinet members has lasted since we came together.

"Margaret played a huge part in bringing us together and I am sure the residents of her ward must be very sad to lose a great councillor and a friend to so many."

Vale Plaid group leader and Dinas Powys councillor Chris Franks said: "Margaret was an excellent representative for the community. She had tremendous integrity and determination to do her best for the public.

"She was also good company and I enjoyed the many little chats we had together.

"Although we were of different political parties I readily recognised her many qualities. I had a great deal of respect for her both as a councillor and as a person."

FocusBarry spokesman and former Labour party colleague Dennis Harkus said: "I always found her to be a straight talking, intelligent and thoughtful individual - a person with an interesting perspective on issues, courteous yet outspoken when needed."

Margaret Alexander's funeral will be held on Thursday, June 7 at All Saints Church, Barry at 1.30pm, followed by a short service at the crematorium at 3pm.