The Senedd elections have been described as “especially challenging” this year as the names of the regional returning officers were revealed by the Welsh Government.
The role of the returning officer is to ensure that the election is administered effectively and they are responsible for co-ordinating arrangements for the regional poll in their respective Senedd electoral regions.
The Minister for Local Government, Julie James, said that the election would be especially challenging as a result of Covid, the enfranchisement of 16-year-olds and foreign nationals, as well as the Police and Crime Commission elections happening the same day.
“I would like to thank those who have agreed to take on the role of Regional Returning Officers for this year’s Senedd Cymru elections,” she said.
“These elections will be particularly challenging as they are combined with the Police and Crime Commissioner elections but, more importantly, they will be the first Senedd elections for the newly enfranchised group of young people and qualifying foreign nationals.
“There is also the additional challenge of ensuring the election can be run safely in light of the on-going pandemic.
“This is a significant personal commitment for those who have agreed to take on this role and I am grateful we will have the benefit of their knowledge and experience.”
The Regional Returning Officers for Wales are:
- Mid and West Wales – Eifion Evans, returning officer for the Ceredigion County Council
- North Wales – Colin Everett, returning officer for the Flintshire County Council
- South Wales West – Phil Roberts, returning officer for the City and County of Swansea
- South Wales Central –Debbie Marles returning officer for the Vale of Glamorgan
- South Wales East – Michelle Morris, returning officer for the Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council
Their main tasks will be to receive nominations for the electoral region, to announce the results of the regional poll and liaise with the returning officers for the Senedd constituencies in their region to ensure a consistent approach to the administration of the Senedd election throughout their region.
Eifion Evans is a graduate of Trinity College Carmarthen and worked in Education as a Teacher and Headteacher between 1991 and 2007. His career in Local Governmnet began in 2007 with his appointment as Assistant Director for Management Services within Ceredigion County Council. He was subsequently promoted to the post of Director of Education and Community Services in 2009 and following reorganisation within the County Council in 2013, Mr. Evans was appointed as Strategic Director with responsibility for Learning and Partnerships. During this period he was nominated as Lead Director for ERW. Mr. Evans was also the Chair of the Association of Directors of Education in Wales. In 2013 he led the Education team through a full Estyn Inspection and Ceredigion remains the only Authority in Wales to have been awarded an overall Excellent judgement. In 2015 he was appointed as Deputy Chief Executive for the Council and subsequently Chief Executive in October 2017. He has extensive experience of leading and running elections over the years. His philosophy in relation to the secret to success is all about teamwork and empowering those within the team to dare to lead.
Colin Everett is Chief Executive of Flintshire County Council and has just completed 13 years in the role. Colin has close to 40 years of public services experience in operational and corporate roles with individual councils in Wales and England, and previously in a national role as Director of Improvement and Governance at the influential Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA). Colin has been influential in shaping the modernisation and reform of local government both nationally in his previous role at WLGA, and latterly regionally and locally as a practitioner Chief Executive at Flintshire. Colin is a past Chair of SOLACE Wales and has a number of leading local, regional and national roles in Wales including Chair of the Flintshire Local Service Board, Trustee of Theatr Clwyd, Chair of the Wales Elections Coordinating Board as the Lead Returning Officer, and most recently Chair of the regional Recovery Coordinating Group for the Covid-19 emergency. Colin is an active member/advisor to the North Wales Regional Leadership and the North Wales Economic Ambition Boards, and is Clerk to the North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority and Clerk to the Lord Lieutenant for Clwyd.
Phil Roberts has been the Chief Executive of Swansea Council since June 2016. He has successfully overseen a number of local and national elections in Swansea during that time as well as the 2016 referendum on EU membership. Phil is supported by a very strong elections team in Swansea. He is a member of the Wales Electoral Coordination Board.
Debbie Marles LLB (Hons) is a Solicitor is the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Monitoring Officer/ Head of Legal and Democratic Services and has been for 9 years; and a qualified Solicitor with 30 years’ experience of working within the private and public sector (Legal Services). She has been the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Returning Officer and Electoral Registration Officer for in excess of six years and have had responsibility for all Elections, Referenda and Community Polls held during that time. She is a Member of the Wales Electoral Co-ordination Board (‘WECB’) and lead Returning Officer for the co-ordination of the mentoring of new Returning Officers in Wales under the auspices of the WECB.
Michelle Morris is the Managing Director in Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council. She joined the Council in October 2017 and previously worked for Highland Council in Scotland, for 10 years, where she held the posts of Assistant Chief Executive and (most recently) Deputy Chief Executive. Michelle started her local government career at Pembrokeshire County Council and, prior to moving to Scotland, she held senior leadership posts, with responsibility for corporate services and business transformation, at the City and County of Swansea and Carmarthenshire County Councils. Over the past 16 years she has been involved in the management of election and referenda events as Deputy Returning Officer and, more recently as Returning Officer.