CCS Board of Trustees

Gary Francis – Chair

Gary is a trained accountant. He has spent his career working within the defence and aerospace business sectors for large organisations, holding a number of board positions. He was previously Managing Director of Thales Optronics in Taunton.

Gary owned and ran his own aerospace/precision engineering company for 13 years. He sold his business in 2021 and is now retired.

Gary has mentored a number of organisations with Cornerstone (a local voluntary organisation), is a Pension Fund Trustee and has been Chair of School Governors.

Gary lives in Taunton with his wife Lorraine and has 2 children.

Dr Chhavi Gautam

Chhavi, a seasoned medical professional, brings over 20 years of experience to her role as a trustee to our charitable organization.

During her career as a medical professional in various corporate hospitals in India, she gained valuable insights into both clinical and management aspects. Her international experience includes working with NGOs like WHO and HelpAge India. 

Since moving to Yeovil in 2019 with her family, Chhavi has been instrumental in community-building initiatives, founding the Yeovil Indian Association & Friends, and organizing events to celebrate cultural diversity. She actively collaborates with local organizations to promote diversity and cultural awareness.

As a trustee, Chhavi leverages her extensive medical and management expertise, alongside her commitment to community service, to advance our organisation’s mission and impact.

Emma Lower

Emma Lower, CEO of Lendology, brings extensive experience to her new role as a trustee at the Community Council for Somerset (CCS).

Committed to community development, she ensures accountability and drives opportunities for business growth, working closely with councils nationwide.

Emma’s leadership has been pivotal in Lendology achieving B Corp status and becoming the UK’s first Carbon Neutral lender. With responsibilities as the Money Laundering Reporting Officer (MLRO) and oversight of compliance, Emma holds certifications in project management and mortgage advice. Her impressive business growth has earned recognition on the Wise100 and Big Issue 100 lists.

As a trustee at CCS, Emma will leverage her expertise to support the organisation’s mission of empowering communities throughout Somerset.

Martin Kitchen

Martin progressed his initial career in London and Surrey Fire Brigade, spending his last 13 years as Chief Officer for Surrey and Chairing the national Fire and Rescue Committee.

Following retirement Martin moved into Chairmanship of NHS organisations for many years, regional commissioning and Southeast Ambulance Service. A move into Somerset resulted in new positions as college and school trustee, and then Vice Chairman of Somerset Community Foundation. Retirement from other charities enabled time to join the Community Council for Somerset.

Martin is an enthusiastic trustee who actively supports progression of the CCS.

He is married and lives in Bicknoller. His four children have now left home and progress careers outside Somerset.

Sarah Tudor

Sarah is a Senior Lecturer at The University of Exeter, leading and teaching Leadership and Management programmes in the Degree Apprenticeships team. She is also currently studying a PhD at Oxford Brookes University, focused on Inclusive Education.

With a background in community and Further Education, Sarah has spent 20 years teaching in FE across vocational programmes, teacher training and apprenticeships.

She is passionate about volunteering within the charity sector, having previously volunteered with homeless charities, the local food bank and parish council initiatives.

Having moved to Taunton in 2016 with her family, Sarah has settled in and loves being part of the local community.

Rob Lawy

Rob retired from the University of Exeter in 2012, where he was Associate Professor in the School of Education. In that role he managed a large teacher education programme that operated in four further education colleges in the South-West.He has strong analytic and critical skills which he was able to utilise in his research.

Rob has served on several external bodies, both national and local, most recently as a Board member of the English Bridge Union. He has a strong sense of civic duty and responsibility and sees his role within CCS as an opportunity to give something tangible back to the community.