TRIBUTES have been flooding in after the death on Tuesday of Wiltshire Councillor Jerry Wickham, 58, the man once tipped to become the authority’s leader.

The councillor for Ethandune resigned from his role in the cabinet in May. He had earlier ruled himself out of the contest to become leader of the council’s controlling Tory group because he had been told his rare and aggressive form of prostate cancer, which he had fought for three years, was not responding to treatment.

Paying tribute to him, The council’s newly elected leader Cllr Phillip Whitehead said: “Jerry was a close friend and a fantastic colleague for many years. As a councillor and cabinet member Jerry always put others before him and was wholeheartedly committed to his local community and Wiltshire. 

“Jerry felt duty bound to serve the public and that was evident in a very distinguished career with the police before representing Wiltshire Council.

“The plan was for Jerry to be leader of the council and I his deputy, and I wish more than anything that’s what could have happened as he would have been a great leader. 

“Our love and condolences go to Jerry’s family and friends and the thoughts of everyone at Wiltshire Council are with them. We shall miss him terribly.”

Mr Wickham leaves his wife, Suzanne, and their two sons, Christopher and Oliver. As well as being a councillor, he served with Wiltshire Police force, spending much of his career in Warminster.

People from across Wiltshire have been remembering his drive to improve services for people in the county.

Cllr Tony Jackson said his legacy would be the transformation of adult social care in the county and praised his integrity, values and skills and Cllr Ashley O’Neil remembered the support Jerry had given him since becoming a councillor.

Cllr Jon Hubbard said: “Simply gutted at the tragic news of Jerry Wickham’s sad passing away. Whilst a political opponent Jerry was also a great individual who’s dedication and commitment was absolutely second to none. A tragic loss to Wiltshire.”

Charity the Wiltshire Community Foundation remembered his compassion and called him a fervent champion of the county and its people. Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) echoed their comments about their highly respected colleague.

A statement issued by Wiltshire Council executive leaders said: “He was respected as a councillor, cabinet member and more importantly a person, and will be terribly missed by all who knew him. 

“He was particularly passionate about adult social care and one of his lasting legacies will be the transformed service that is supporting many people in the county.”

Chief Constable Kier Pritchard said: “I was deeply saddened to hear the news that former Wiltshire Police officer Jerry Wickham had died. I, along with countless officers and staff at the Force, knew Jerry well and had the privilege of working with him during his distinguished policing career.

“Jerry remained a strong supporter and champion of Wiltshire Police during his years as a councillor and I would personally like to pay tribute to his lifelong dedication to public service.
“On behalf of the Force I would also like to extend my heartfelt condolences to his family, particularly his wife Suzanne and their two children."

Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson said: “I am deeply saddened to hear that former Chief Superintendent Jerry Wickham died yesterday. An ‘old school copper’ who was incredibly respected within Wiltshire Police, Jerry was firm but fair with his officers and the public alike. 

“A life-long public servant Jerry was elected as Councillor for Ethandune in 2013 and became the Wiltshire Council cabinet member for Adult Social Care, Public Health and Pubic Protection.

“There is no doubt that his work would’ve have changed the lives of many people for the better thanks to his tenacity and passion, Jerry was someone that you always rely on to get the job done.

“I send my very best wishes to his wife, Suzanne and their sons at this very sad time.”

When resigning from his cabinet member role in May, Jerry spoke openly about living with cancer and urged other men to get checked out for prostate illnesses.

He said: “A man dies of prostate cancer every 45 minutes and that to me is a startling figure. It is a rare form of the cancer and it is aggressive. 

“My family and I have been on this journey for two and a half years now and there has been a lot of expectation and hope that has then been dashed. 

“There isn’t enough time, it is far too short. I had hoped to put as much enthusiasm into the leader role as I had with Adult Social Care and I am proud that I have got prevention into the way this council works. That is my legacy.”