The First 100 Days as The High Sheriff of Oxfordshire: An Interview with Mark Beard

(From left to right) Monawar Hussein, High Court Judge Nerys Jefford, Mark Beard, and Rev. William Whyte at the swearing-in ceremony on the 31st March. Image credits: Mark Beard

What is a ‘High Sheriff’ and what do they do?

You may have heard of the role of ‘The High Sheriff of Oxfordshire’, but do you know what that role entails? There is a High Sheriff appointed by every county in England and they have a range of societal responsibilities. While the High Sheriff changes every year, each candidate brings a specific theme or topic they focus on while sworn-in. If you’d like to brush up on your knowledge about this prestigious role in your local area of Oxfordshire, read on.

According to The High Sheriff’s Association, the key responsibilities of the role are:

  • “To lend active support to the Royal Family, the Judiciary, the Police and other law enforcement agencies, the emergency services, local authorities, and church and faith groups.
  • To take an active part in supporting and promoting the voluntary sector and giving all possible encouragement to the voluntary organisations within a County.
  • To ensure the welfare of visiting High Court Judges, to attend on them at Court and to offer them hospitality
  • To make a meaningful contribution to the High Sheriff’s County during the year of Office and to uphold and enhance the ancient Office of High Sheriff 
  • To support the Lord-Lieutenant on royal visits and on other occasions as appropriate.”

According to the High Sheriff of Staffordshire website, “The Office of High Sheriff is the oldest continuous secular office under the Crown and can be traced back more than 1,000 years to the reign of the Saxon King ‘Ethelred the Unready’ (978-1016). It is the oldest official post in England and Wales.” They were historically “appointed to act as the sovereign’s representative”.

Who is the Current High Sheriff of Oxfordshire?

the high sheriff of oxfordshire
Image from High Sheriff of Oxfordshire Website

While The previous High Sheriff of Oxfordshire was Sheikh Monawar Hussein, the new High Sheriff for the years 2022-2023 is Mr Mark Beard – a local businessman who has run Beard Construction for the past 25 years. According to the Oxfordshire County Council website, Mr Beard is also “a Past President of the Chartered Institute of Building, Oxfordshire Businessman of the Year in 2004 and CEO Magazine Construction Industry Chief Executive of the Year in 2021” as well as the “Founder of Beard Charitable Foundation” and a “Chartered Environmentalist”. 

Mr Beard has “tried to take a broad view of the community, giving [his] time to a variety of charities within our county and nationally. In 2015, Mark set up The Beard Charitable Foundation that match-funds Beard staff’s own charitable fundraising and supports other causes mainly linked to young people and the construction industry”.

Supporting Law Enforcement

The key responsibility of the High Sheriff is supporting the Law Enforcement agencies. Mr Beard shares that “recognising and rewarding Police, Fire, Search and Rescue and Prison officers has been the most important part of my role to date. There are so many unsung heroes in these areas, it is great to be able to thank them personally for all they have done.”

As well as recognising the unsung heroes, High Sheriffs can give out ‘The High Sheriff’s Awards’, which are “are designed to reward the volunteers, charities and community groups who devote their time and energy to improve the communities in which they live and work”.

Supporting Volunteering Organisations

The Theme of Mr Beard’s Shrieval year is supporting Young People from difficult backgrounds. 

“I am keen to highlight the particular challenges young people have faced over the last two years, recognise all the volunteers who support them and raise money for three specific charities: Youth Challenge Oxfordshire, Children Heard & Seen and Active Oxfordshire.”

Attending Significant Cultural and Community Events

We asked Mr Beard about some of his most notable events from the past 100 days as High Sheriff. Mr Beard specified the following as among his favourites:

  •  Opening for the Oxford Arts Week.
  • Inspecting men’s and ladies rugby teams before the National Anthem at a Varsity Match at Twickenham.
  •  Visiting the Blackbird Leys Community and participating in their Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
  •  Mr Beard’s own Six Rackets Sports Fundraising Day at Radley College on behalf of the charity, Active Oxfordshire.

Mr Beard’s described his experience of the first 100 days as High Sheriff of Oxfordshire as ‘a lot of fun’. He also shared: “I have enjoyed all 65 or so events I have attended and been amazed by the commitment of a wide array of people to the causes they hold so dear.”

Find out more about REACH local and our cause in this Q&A article with Simon Brooker, Executive Editor of REACH local magazine.