My friend Jan Wilson, who has died of lung cancer aged 66, was a tremendous leader of Sheffield city council and a source of inspiration to those who knew and worked with her.
She was a Sheffielder through and through. Born in the city, after leaving school she worked in the steel industry from 1960 to 1972, the only female technician in the drawing office of Samuel Osborn & Co. Between 1976 and 1984 she was a volunteer with Citizens Advice and became a full-time member of staff. It was her love of making a difference to people’s lives by fighting for decent public services that led her to stand as a Labour candidate for election to Sheffield council in 1992. She led the council from 1998 to 1999 and again from 2002 to 2008.
Jan always showed strength of character, especially when faced with illness, as well as the challenge of leading a minority administration in a hung council. She simply organised her job to focus on the most important issues and channelled her energies into making the biggest impact. Her priority was the needs of the community’s most disadvantaged people, and the city benefited from her pragmatic yet tenacious and compassionate approach.
Her responsibilities ranged from overseeing regeneration projects to hosting visits by the Queen and inducting Def Leppard into the city’s hall of fame. She approached everything with a sense of humour.
Jan worked in partnership with businesses and community organisations to achieve long-term improvements. Her commitment produced results: the Heart of the City regeneration programme, which she oversaw, to improve the most deprived neighbourhoods of Sheffield and refurbish the council housing stock, has left a lasting legacy for residents. Under her leadership, Sheffield won the Council of the Year award in 2005. Jan was appointed CBE in 2006.
She still found time for watching cricket, crosswords, music, reading, and gardening. Jan is survived by her husband, Nick Silvani, and two children, Jane and John.
Bob Kerslake, The Guardian