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Former Guildford Schoolboy Becomes High Sheriff for the Second Time

Published on: 6 Apr, 2024
Updated on: 7 Apr, 2024

The badge of office being handed over to Shahid Azeem DL by Tim Wates DL

A former Park Barn schoolboy, entrepreneur Shahid Azeem DL, has been installed as the High Sheriff of Surrey for the second time, continuing with his theme “Together we are stronger”.

He was presented with the badge of office by his predecessor, Tim Wates DL, during a ceremony held at the Royal Holloway, University of London, on March 21 – a time-honoured ceremony officiated by the Under Sheriff of Surrey, Caroline Breckell MVO DL.

The Under Sheriff Caroline Breckell MVO DL makes it official.

Mr Azeem’s previous term was limited by the Covid pandemic in 2020. For the first time, his installation was required to be streamed online, with each participant at a different location in Surrey. He was the first Muslim High Sheriff, taking on a role that dates back to before the Norman conquest.

During his previous term as High Sheriff, Shahid worked closely with the Lord Lieutenant of Surrey,
Michael More-Molyneux, to support the community during the pandemic. He also initiated various community support groups which brought people together from different faiths.

The new High Sheriff gives his speech of acceptance.

Mr Azeem’s life in Surrey began in 1969. His family was one of the first Asian families in the area.

The young schoolboy did not speak English and started to learn the language by watching the BBC news. He described his schooldays at Park Barn, Guildford, as a “baptism of fire”, as he desperately tried to fit in.

He found himself expelled from school after being faced with racism, bigotry and unfairness and he left
school with no qualifications but a big dream – to become a footballer.

Life took a different turn as the world of work was calling and specifically, a career in IT. He started off working at what is now known as DEFRA, then the Home Office and eventually at the London Docklands development corporation, where he took the lead role on IT infrastructure for Canary Wharf in 1985.

He later worked for AT&T before branching out and starting his own business in Guildford.

Now a successful businessman, Mr Azeem lives in Woking with his wife, Sameena, and has two grown-up sons, a daughter and three grandchildren.

He is well known in Surrey, which has always been an important place for Mr Azeem, and also in Hampshire, where he is the chairman of Aldershot Town Football Club.

He said: “I have always lived and breathed Surrey. It’s where I arrived, it is what has shaped me. It is where I became Deputy Lieutenant and now have the privilege of serving as High Sheriff once again, this time without the challenges of a pandemic being in the forefront of the role.

The Rev’d Philip Simpson and Imam Saeed Hashmi, two of the High Sheriffs chaplains.

“I very much look forward to visiting charities and community organisations in the County and meeting the people who make Surrey the wonderful County that it is. I am grateful for what Surrey has offered me and made me – a part of the fabric of Surrey’s society.

“I am now being given the opportunity to play my part in supporting and strengthening that society.”

As is the remit for the role of High Sheriff, Shahid will be a voice for the police, the prison service, courts, the third sector and charities during his tenure.

The Rev’d Philip Simpson, Imam Saeed Hashmi and Rabbi Kath Verdi will be the High Sheriff’s chaplains for the year and Ruby and Kieran will serve as the High Sheriff’s Cadets.

The High Sheriff presents a sash of office to one of his police cadets, Kieran.

As well as carrying out the ceremonial role of the High Sheriff and attending numerous events across the community, Mr Azeem has five main aims for his Shrieval year:

  1. To highlight the importance of multi-faith groups working together for a
    better society. This follows on from the Covid pandemic where Faiths played
    a major role.
  2. To continue the work of his predecessor in the areas of mental health and
  3. The BAME community joining Surrey’s Police Force.
  4. To support and promote sport initiatives in Surrey with the aim of improving
  5. Working with the judiciary and the police to highlight charities in the county
    that are not on the radar.

The outgoing High Sheriff , Tim Wates DL, congratulated Shahid on his appointment and talked about the highlights of his year in office thanking his team for their support.

The Lord Lieutenant of Surrey, Mr Michael More Molyneux, and his wife Sarah.

As the ceremony drew to a close, HM Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey, Michael More-Molyneux, praised the work of Mr Wates in his Shrieval year and thanked him for his commitment to the county.

Finally, the Shaikh Nisar – Muslim Chaplin of the Royal Holloway University London – addressed the audience and invited them to join them in breaking the fast before prayers were to take place, a new addition to the ceremony and another first for Surrey.

A reception then took place amid the stunning picture gallery at Royal Holloway University to celebrate the Installation of the new High Sheriff.

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