THE former chairman of Dorset County Council has died aged 74.

Cllr John Wilson was elected to the county council in 2001 as a Conservative member for Ferndown. He served as the chairman until April this year, when he stood down due to health reasons after seven years in the role, but remained a county councillor.

Colleagues have paid tribute to Cllr Wilson and a book of condolence has been left at County Hall in Dorchester for staff, councillors and members of the public to write comments and their memories. It will be available until Thursday, July 21.

Debbie Ward, chief executive of the county council, said: “News of John’s death has been received with great sadness across the county as well as within the county council. He was a highly respected and valued councillor and in his role as chairman was able to use all his qualities and knowledge in his commitment to public service and Dorset.

“His work ethic was a model for us all and the joy he took in his role, with the tireless support of his wife Lesley, was never taken for granted. John will be much missed and my thoughts are with Lesley and his family.”

Cllr Wilson served in a number of committee roles on the council, including as chairman of the Corporate Services Overview/Policy Development Committee between 2003 and 2007, as well as being the council’s member champion for freedom of information and corporate sustainability.

He was elected vice-chairman of the county council in 2005 and became chairman in 2009. The role included chairing meetings of the full council and representing the authority at civic and ceremonial functions, including a number of royal visits.

As well as a county councillor, Cllr Wilson had been a member of East Dorset District Council for Parley since 2011, was previously a Ferndown Town Councillor and was also a member of the Dorset Fire Authority, subsequently the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service Authority, until standing down in April.

John Wilson grew up in Leeds, where he married his wife, Lesley. He attended grammar school and graduated with a BSc in Chemical Engineering from Imperial College, London before beginning his career in engineering in his home county of Yorkshire. Shortly afterwards, he and Lesley moved to Dorset when he joined his family’s motor business in Ferndown, where they remained for more than 40 years.

Cllr Wilson was an active member of the Lions Club, for which he did much local charity work, and a governor of Ferndown Upper School since 2007.

He leaves behind Lesley and their daughter, Dianne.

A by-election for his former Ferndown seat will be held in due course.