Flintshire, Wales and the entire political community were left stunned by the news of the tragic death of Carl Sargeant, Assembly Member for Alyn and Deeside, on Tuesday.
He was just 49 years old and a married father of two.
I grew to know Carl when I joined the Leader in 2013, covering the Deeside patch, and he became not only a key contact but someone I became fond of and got on well with.
The main thing I would take away from knowing him is that, despite being the Assembly Member for the whole of Alyn and Deeside, his love and pride in his home town of Connah’s Quay was there for all to see.
A former town council chairman, Carl never hid his love for the area and dedicated his life to making it a better place.
His most recent campaign before he died was on the pages of this very newspaper where he vowed to help tackle drug crime.
Carl wasn’t all business though. He was president of the town’s football club, FC Nomads of Connah’s Quay, a position
I understand he enjoyed very much.
Above all Carl was a true Labour man through and through, his picture even adorned the Labour Club on Fron Road where he often held surgeries with residents and was just a stone’s throw from the offices he shared with Mark Tami, the constituency MP, on High Street.
You could tell he truly loved his party and I remember on the night of the snap General Election earlier this year, as other candidates paced nervously throughout the sports hall at Coleg Cambria in Connah’s Quay, there was no ruffling Carl as he knew he could trust the electorate for his colleague.
“We’ll be fine,” he said. “We’ll get there.”
The count hadn’t even begun yet but such was Carl’s steadfast dedication to Labour, he knew they would hold on to the seat, which they did with an increased majority.
You only need look through the vast amount of tributes and comments that have emerged since his death to illustrate how popular Carl was, not only locally but across Wales and on all sides of the political divide.
He was a canny political operator and spent a decade in the Welsh Labour Government cabinet in a number of different portfolios.
Carl was also a fierce campaigner for his constituents, working tirelessly on war widows’ pensions and the Sling the Mesh campaign, to name but two.
He gave everything to helping to secure a future for the Tata Steel plant in Shotton during the months of uncertainty in 2016 and couldn’t get to our offices fast enough to lend his support to the Save Our Steel campaign that we were running. It is from that occasion I remember one of my favourite moments with Carl.
He and Mark Tami had arrived early in Mold and keen to get started, immediately rang up Ken Skates to ask where he was.
When his colleague said he was running late in a queue, Carl boomed: “What do you mean you’re stuck in traffic, you’re the transport minister!”
He always had a moment for us and whenever we attended a job where he had to take part in a number of interviews, he never forgot to make time for us.
When it wasn’t the steelworks or national matters, more often than not I spoke to Carl, usually via Twitter and the odd dog pic or two, about football.
He being a Newcastle fan and myself an Evertonian, there were often jokes about how we’d take six points a season off one another and usually a laugh shared with his colleagues in Connah’s Quay whenever Liverpool lost.
He was also a proud Welshman and I remember his delight at Wales’ success at the European Championships last summer.
It was said on Tuesday that Carl was a “gentle giant” and Flintshire, Wales and the whole country will undoubtedly be at a great loss without him.
My heart and thoughts go out to his family, friends and colleagues as well as his tireless staff who worked around the clock with him and for him.
He will be very sadly missed.
See full story in the Leader