The new chairman of South Hams District Council is a lifelong farmer and Exeter Chiefs Rugby fan.

Cllr Peter Smerdon, who has lived on his family farm in Rattery for more than 50 years, was presented with his chairman’s chain of office by outgoing chairman Cllr Ian Bramble on during South Hams’ annual council meeting.

Cllr Peter Smerdon, district councillor for South Brent, was first elected five years ago to represent Eastmoor Ward, one of the largest in the South Hams. He is a keen supporter of rural affairs and Devon Young Farmers and recently helped bring forward the council’s village housing initiative project in Rattery, where 12 affordable homes were built for local people. Cllr Smerdon is committed to helping villages provide rural housing across the district.

After being presented with the chairman’s chain of office at South Hams’ annual council meeting, Cllr Smerdon said: ’Thank you members for electing me as your chairman for the forthcoming civic year. It is a huge honour, and I will wear the chain of office with pride and honour. Looking ahead to the coming year I am certain that this council is in a strong position due to sound financial management and forward thinking. We can now take the council forward confidently and continue to deliver good services to our residents. This is a very exciting time as we are beginning to see the result of a lot of hard work to bring forward new systems and ways of working. We are now one of the leading councils in the UK when it comes to modern work practices, information technology and communications.

’We are very lucky to live in a beautiful, diverse area that stretches from moor to sea, with a thriving rural and tourist economy. I look forward to representing the council and meeting residents at many and varied events across the district and throughout South Devon. You will not be surprised to hear that there will be a rural flavour to my year as chairman. It seems only yesterday, but actually over 30 years ago, I was county chairman of Devon Young Farmers, and there is a nice symmetry in the fact that my first public engagement as chairman will be at the Devon Young Farmers tent at the Devon County Show.’

As a farmer all his life, Cllr Smerdon is the third generation of his family to live on the family farm. Until 2009, he was dairy farming with 110 cows but now keeps beef cattle and sheep, a small organic vegetable acreage and manages a caravan site. Cllr Smerdon added: ’For those of us who are farming, our wives are often our business partners too, so in my case my wife Angela is left to run the farm whilst I am on council business, and I owe her a massive thank you for her support over the five years I have been councillor."

Cllr Smerdon’s chosen charity is South Brent Caring, an organisation that he has long supported in the South Brent Ward.

Councillors also chose Cllr Kathy Cuthbert, ward member for Ivybridge East, as vice-chairman. Praise and thanks were also paid to outgoing chairman, Cllr Ian Bramble.

After Cllr Ian Bramble presented the chairman’s chain of office to Cllr Smerdon,Cllr Smerdon said: ’I would like to thank my predecessor Cllr Ian Bramble and his wife for their hard work on behalf of the Council. As well as the normal list of civic engagements that fall to a chairman, Ian volunteered to attend many town council meetings to listen to their concerns.’

Cllr Hilary Bastone added: ’Ian has done such a terrific job over the past 12 months. The chairman is so often the face of the council within the community. It is here that Ian has come into his own with his personal charm and diplomacy when he has undertaken external duties.

’Behind every good man, however, is a good woman and Merial has supported Ian every inch of the way and been a superb escort on each and every occasion. On behalf of the members and officers of South Hams District Council I thank you both most sincerely for the work and sense of duty that you have contributed to this council over the last year and for the pleasant and friendly manner in which you have carried out your duties.’

The annual meeting also confirmed Cllr John Tucker as leader, with deputy leader Cllr Lindsay Ward.

The executive committee chairman was confirmed as: Cllr J R Tucker.

Development management chairman: Cllr R C Steer with Cllr R J Foss appointed as vice chairman.

Overview and Scrutiny Panel chairman: Cllr M F Saltern with Cllr K R H Wingate appointed as vice chairman.

Licensing chairman: Cllr D W May with Cllr T R Holway appointed as vice chairman.

Audit Chairman: Cllr K R H Wingate with Cllr J T Pennington appointed as Vice Chairman.