SYLVIA Brown, chief executive of the charity Action with Communities in Rural England, is to retire at the end of March.
The decision follows more than 10 years at the helm of the umbrellla organisation, which represents England's rural community councils.
When Ms Brown took over as ACRE chief executive of ACRE in 2001, she inherited a failing organisation with no sustainable income.
In the years that followed, she restored ACRE's viability, its membership base and its credibility in the national arena, and established new strong relationships, in particular, with Defra.
She was also successful in levering in investment in local rural community action from a range of statutory sources in government and the Big Lottery.
Ms Brown said it had been a pleasure and a privilege to work with friends and colleagues in the national arena.
"I would like to thank them for the many tributes and messages I have received in recent weeks.
"They all seem to think I won't be retiring completely from public life and they are probably right – I have always been a grass roots activist and intend to remain a rural campaigner for many years to come."
From 2007 onwards, Ms Brown harnessed the Rural Community Action Network's climate change response to bring the power of rural community action to the attention of new audiences.
The result was leading roles in delivery of government initiatives such as Every Action Counts and later the Ministerial Task Force on Climate Change and the third sector.
More recently, localism has provided fertile ground for demonstrating the role of ACRE's members and the potential of rural community action to deliver lasting change.
Her expertise and commitment was acknowledged in 2007 through the award of the OBE for services to rural communities.
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