Colin Wedd, who has died at 82, was a former leader of Doncaster Borough Council, a prominent councillor on the old South Yorkshire County Council and a past chairman of Doncaster Racecourse.
A key figure in local Labour politics, he was also a schoolteacher, patron of the arts and a chairman of the board at the Northern Racing College at Rossington.
Born in Cambridge in 1937, the youngest of three brothers, he won a scholarship to Cambridgeshire High School for boys before going on to read modern languages at Durham University.
His studies were interrupted by National Service. He had initially volunteered for the Intelligence Corps, in part because he wanted to learn Russian, but was disappointed to find the Army at that time was interested only in recruits who were prepared to learn Arabic.
Instead he found himself in the Royal Artillery, where he rode horses for the first time. It began a lifelong love affair with everything equine – from recreational riding to the training of apprentice jockeys and riding with the Badsworth Hunt.
After Durham, he was offered a position teaching modern languages at Don Valley High School. He told the interviewing committee that he was likely to stay for three years at the most, but he became a fixture for the next 25 years, retiring as head of the sixth form and then returning to serve as chair of the governors in the 1990s.
With an urbane charm that appeared more Home Counties than Northern, Colin Wedd never came across as an archetypal Yorkshireman, but he nevertheless put down his roots in the county, becoming president of the Doncaster branch of the teachers’ union and then chairman of the district Labour Party. Towards the end of his life, the party awarded him its Order of Merit.
In 1981, he won a seat from the Conservatives on the South Yorkshire County Council, and soon made his mark amongst the stalwarts of the “socialist republic” that had become a thorn in Margaret Thatcher’s side. The following year, he was made secretary of the Labour Group, an influential position within the ruling policy committee. These were turbulent times in South Yorkshire with the county council under sentence of death by Mrs Thatcher, the miners on strike and large numbers of people unemployed across the county.
Among the initiatives set up by the county council was an apprentice racing training school – a project led by Mr Wedd. After the abolition of the metropolitan counties in 1986, he continued as chair of the new school and saw it grow into the Northern Racing College and forge links with training schools in Italy, Ireland, France and Germany.
He was elected to Doncaster Borough Council in 1992, taking over the leadership in 1998 for three years. At the same time he founded a small art gallery in the centre of Doncaster, whose success led him to mount exhibitions of local artists’ work at Cusworth Hall and at The Point arts centre.
He is survived by Stancee, his wife of two decades.