A BIG cat expert is Romsey’s new town centre manager.

Former chief executive of Marwell Wildlife, Mark Edgerley, has replaced Christine Cole, who retired last year. He is employed by the town council, unlike his predecessor, who worked for Test Valley Borough Council.

Mark, 61, said he’s looking forward to his new part-time role.

“I will endeavour to meet with all individuals and organisations who have an interest in ensuring Romsey prospers, to listen to views and opinions and where possible to turn aspirations into reality,” he said.

“There is no major budget, but there is a ‘pot of gold’ in the goodwill and passion so many people have for Romsey and my role is to channel that effort into developing a ‘One Romsey’ approach.

Mark and his wife, Mandy, moved to Romsey in 1980, when he took a job as a cartographic surveyor at the Ordnance Survey’s HQ in Southampton.

Mark went on to become European sales director for a Canadian software company and between 2000 and 2003, he was chief executive at Marwell Wildlife. In al,l he worked 20 years at the zoo, much of that time as a volunteer.

Mark set up the Wildlife Heritage Foundation – a big cat sanctuary in Smarden, Kent and worked there from 2003 until May, 2010. “I have always been interested in conservation and wildlife. I think that I began when my grandmother started taking me to the Royal Albert Museum, in Exeter.

“At the time, the museum had a large collection of stuffed animals from the Victorian period, including a huge giraffe viewable from three floors, as a child of three or four, I would always want to look this huge beast directly into its glass eye from the top floor,” said Mark, adding that his favourite big cat was the Amur leopard – fewer than 40 of which are left in Russia’s far east.

His new role with the town council includes forging links with Romsey’s retail and business communities and representing them at local authority level. “Working closely with Test Valley Borough Council officers is an important aspect of the job,” said Mark, who is already involved with the authority on the development of the Romsey Future project to improve the town and its environment.

“Continuing the work undertaken by Christine Cole, we hope to improve the number of town centre events ensuring activities enhance the ability of local business to flourish,” added Mark.

He believes that visitors first impressions are important and he plans to ensure the town is kept clean and tidy.

Town clerk, Judith Giles, said the council was delighted to have him aboard.

“It is our aim to work with businesses and organisations to promote Romsey and attract visitors,” she said.

Mark is also manager of the Christian charity, Equip and a governor at Mountbatten School, where his three children were educated.

He can be contacted at the Town Hall, on 07850 449484, or e-mail tcm@romseytc.org.uk.