East Hampshire District Council leader Cllr Richard Millard paid tribute to Petersfield Post chief reporter Jon Walker at the full council meeting last Thursday.
Cllr Millard said: “This is a very difficult speech to do actually, probably one of the hardest I’ve done, and in reality Jon is probably up there looking down and saying ‘Millard, get on with it!’
“I had the honour of working with Jon every Friday, and by Friday my working week had normally been so lousy that getting to talk to Jon was actually the amusing bit of the day. As an individual he was such a strong character. He was so principled, he loved his beer and he loved his rugby.
“Particularly for a politician, if you sat and talked to him he had a radar which could cut through anything. You’d do a speech and he’d be sitting jotting it down, and you’d be thinking ‘You’re not actually writing that Jon, you’re actually doing some Sudoku or something’, and you’d get to the end of it and he says ‘Ok, so you’ve said this, well really, is that actually what you are going to do?’
“He had that ability because he believed in absolute, straight down the line, if you are talking rubbish I’ll tell you. He knew how to put people on the spot but he did it with such a nice manner and he did it with so much jest, his cheeky little smile, and you didn’t have to say anything because you knew he was already thinking ‘actually that’s a load of rubbish but I’d better write that down’.
“And there was the Jon on election nights where you were standing trying desperately to avoid him. You’d go round the room and he’d be like a great white shark that would be tracking you, and the second you went for a coffee he’d be suddenly beside you and you’re snared: ‘So, Cllr Millard, what do you reckon is going on here, old son?’
“He had the ability to talk, he got your trust. He was passionate about affordable housing and when you heard him talk about affordable housing you could see genuine desire, genuine interest, and he didn’t dress things up.
“He told it exactly how it was and that’s why people loved him, and that’s why the town will miss him terribly, and I think the paper will miss him immensely because people trusted him and people talked to him and people responded to him.
“His web of connections was phenomenal – I mean he was like MI6, he knew everybody! Whichever level you were talking to you knew that Jon would be there somewhere, but you knew at the same time if you wanted to talk to him face to face you could trust him and he gave you the time.
“He did so many things for so many people, and I think Petersfield is a sadder place and I think the paper’s a sadder place. God rest his soul, and thank you Jon. You’ll be missed.”
A minute’s silence was observed in the council chamber following Cllr Millard’s speech.
Petersfield Town Council also held a minute’s silence for Jon on March 23.