GRAHAM Kirkland is the new Lord Mayor of Leeds for 1998.

The Otley town and city councillor was this week named Lord Mayor-elect with his wife Joan as Lady Mayoress.

He is the first Liberal Democrat to hold the position since Leeds became a city council in the 1970s. And just hours after learning the news, he was relishing the challenge.

"I am absolutely delighted and determined to do a good job. There is no doubt I will do whatever possible to make it a successful time," he said.

Coun Kirkland (LibDem, Otley and Wharfedale) said: "We hope people will take advantage of us and invite us to their functions in Otley and across Leeds.

"I have spent time in different parts of the city on medical matters and now I want to renew my acquaintance with them. I am sure they are every bit as vibrant as Otley."

Confirmation of the appointment was only made on Tuesday, even though Coun and Doctor Joan Kirkland had known of its likelihood for some time.

The Lady Mayoress-to-be said: "It hasn't quite sunk in yet. We've not really had a chance to think it out and until we meet the Lord Mayor's secretary we won't know exactly how much is involved."

Her husband added: "It's too early at the moment to make definite plans but we have lots of projects to sift through and we will be appointing a deputy mayor next week."

A town councillor for 32 years, Coun Kirkland, 61, has been a partner at the Westgate Medical Centre since 1963, where he was joined by his wife five years later.

Between the two of them they have treated thousands of patients as well as finding time for a number of other interests.

Dr Kirkland, 60, is a former magistrate while her husband of 37 years has held several important positions including chairman of the Otley Urban District Council from 1973-74 and as Otley Town Mayor in 1986.

Currently job-sharing as part of their semi-retirement, both will be giving up the practice for good. "You can't be in two places at once," said Dr Kirkland. She will, however, try to carry on her work at Leeds General Infirmary and Wharfedale General.

"Most people retire to take things easy but we're jumping in at the deep end.

"We've always had a hectic schedule as we both have lots of other commitments besides our medicine, so it's just going to be a case of changing."

The appointment breaks new ground in a number of ways. Coun Kirkland is the first doctor to become Lord Mayor since the last century and the first Otley town councillor.

Children Jonathan and Susan were thrilled by the news, said Coun Kirkland. And he already has plans for grandson Joshua, two, to play a key part in his new role.

Coun Kirkland will be made Lord Mayor of Leeds at the Civic Hall on May 16. He is confident of the next year's success. "Our jobs have always been meeting people and working with them. Now we need to get down to the nitty-gritty of what we are taking on," he said.

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