The leader of the DUP group on Newtownabbey Borough Council, Alderman Paul Girvan, is stepping down from his position on the council.
Alderman Girvan, who has served on the council for more than 16 years, will attend his final committee meeting on December 16.
“It’s going to be quite traumatic for me to leave the council - I have to be honest. I really will miss the place. I have been on the council for 16 and a half years and I have really enjoyed it,” he told the Times.
“I have really enjoyed making contacts with all the groups around the borough and working with all the different people so I’m very sad to be leaving the council.”
First elected to the local authority in 1997, the Ballyclare councillor served as the borough’s Mayor from 2002 - 2004.
He was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2003, representing the South Antrim constituency. However, he was deselected by local party members ahead of the 2007 election.
The Ballynure man returned to the Assembly in 2010 when he was selected to replace William McCrea MP, and he retained his seat in the 2011 Stormont election.
Alderman Girvan, whose wife Mandy is also a local councillor, said the council had been a massive part of his life over the past 16 years, adding that he will miss the day-to-day interaction with council colleagues, officers and staff, many of whom he regards as good friends.
“From 1997 until now the council has been my bread and butter,” he added.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed representing the people as a councillor and I will continue to represent them to the best of my ability in the Assembly.”
Councillor John Scott, the leader of the UUP group on the council, paid tribute to Mr Girvan.
“I have worked with Paul on the council for the past 10 years and known him long before that. I have always found him to be very supportive and he really will be badly missed on the council. We didn’t always see eye to eye on everything over the years, but we’ve always left as friends. I would just like to wish him all the best at Stormont and his successor all the very best on the council.”
Alliance Councillor Billy Webb, who was also elected to the council in 1997, added: “Paul has made a significant contribution to the civic life of the borough and will be missed.
“On behalf of the Alliance group I wish him well as he leaves to continue his Assembly responsibilities.”
SDLP Councillor Noreen McClelland said that Alderman Girvan had made “quite a contribution to debates in the council chamber over the years” and wished him well with his ongoing work as an MLA.
A DUP spokesman confirmed that Alderman Girvan is vacating his council seat as part of the party’s pledge to “phase out dual mandates”, but he declined to comment on who will take over as DUP group leader on the council, or who will take Mr Girvan’s seat.
However, the Times understands that one of the favourites to take Alderman Girvan’s seat is Ballyclare man Gavin Eastwood, who stood in the last council election for the Ulster Unionist Party.
Alderman Girvan’s party colleague, North Belfast MLA Paula Bradley, stood down from the council in September this year to concentrate on her role at Stormont. The party co-opted Glengormley man Phillip Brett to take her seat in the Antrim Line District Electoral Area.