A FORMER mayor of Witney has turned his back on politics and Oxfordshire and now helps to run two restaurants and a rice farm in Thailand.
Steve Hayward, 59, was elected in 1999 but resigned from the Conservative party earlier this year after being “sacked” from a committee position.
He was deselected from his county council seat but technically still represents Ducklington for West Oxfordshire District Council.
Since the election this year, he has left his lorry driver job and moved to Thailand and set up businesses.
He now owns a 10 per cent stake in and runs two restaurants and bars in Khao Lak and even a small share in a rice and sugar farm in the area.
Mr Hayward said: “The restaurants are Thai, Indian, Italian and sea food. There is marvellous sea food here, fresh every day.
“It is an amazing place but, with the land still devastated by the tsunami, they are only just getting back to where they were eight years ago.
“There is a navy boat that was washed up 2km inland that is part of a monument to people who have died.
“The people here are very friendly. Anyone who has been to Thailand will tell you how friendly they are but you have to get used to the heat.
“Daytime temperature is about 30C but it can get as high as 40C. It can get cool in the evening, though, 16C or 17C.”
His restaurants are called Black Pepper, which opened in May, and Black Pepper 2, which opens shortly.
As well as the restaurants and rice farm, Mr Hayward has been advising people about design and what UK tourists expect in hotels.
Asked if he was planning to get involved in Thai politics – maybe as mayor of Phuket – he said: “Certainly not.
“I miss the friends and colleagues I have made over the years and being involved in politics gave me great pleasure.
“It was a big part of my life but I will not miss driving through Oxford’s traffic to get to County Hall.
“I have moved on now. I am not looking back and lamenting my deselection.
“In a way it was a positive move for me as otherwise I would probably still be on the county council and still be a lorry driver.
“I have done amazing things. I never thought, for example, I would drive a motorbike in Bangkok.”
Earlier this year, he quit the Tory Party, saying at the time it was because he had been “sacked” from a committee.
He was in the Merchant Navy for 14 years and, during 21 years in Witney, owned Bees Pool Club in Corn Street – now Fat Lil’s.
He will stand down from his district council seat next year and be replaced at the elections.