Shahid Azeem DL is installed as High Sheriff of Surrey for 2024/2025

Entrepreneur Shahid Azeem DL, has been installed as the High Sheriff of Surrey for 2024/25 for the second time, continuing with his theme “TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER”. He was handed over the badge of office from Tim Wates DL during a ceremony held at the Royal Holloway, University of London on the 21st March, during the time honoured ceremony officiated by the Under Sheriff of Surrey – Mrs Caroline Breckell MVO DL.

Mr Azeem’s previous term was much limited by the coronavirus pandemic back in 2020, where his installation was for the first time ever streamed online with each participant at a different location in Surrey and he was the first Muslim High Sheriff, taking on a role that dates back to before the Norman conquest. During his previous term as High Sheriff, Shahid worked closely with the Lord Lieutenant of Surrey – Michael More-Molyneux to support the community during the pandemic and he also initiated various community support groups which brought people together from different faiths in a very positive and proactive way thereby proving his mantra – “TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER”. He is now back in better times to serve the County for another twelve months as High Sheriff and is now the only High sheriff of Surrey to be honoured with the role by both a Queen and a King!

Mr Azeem’s life in Surrey began in 1969, and his family were one of the first Asian families in the area. The young schoolboy did not speak English and started to learn the language by watching the BBC news. He described his schooldays in Park Barn, Guildford, as a “baptism of fire”, as he desperately tried to fit in. He found himself expelled from school after being faced with racism, bigotry and unfairness. He left school with no qualifications yet with a big dream – to become a footballer.

Life took a different turn as the world of work was calling and specifically, a career in IT. He started off working at what is now known as DEFRA, later the Home Office and eventually at London Docklands development corporation, where he took the lead role on IT infrastructure for Canary Wharf in 1985. He later worked for AT&T, before branching out and starting his own business in Guildford. Now a successful businessman, Mr Azeem lives in Woking with his wife, Sameena, and has two grown-up sons and a daughter and three Grand-children. He is well known in Surrey which has always been an important place for Mr Azeem and Hampshire too where he is the chairman of Aldershot Town Football Club. 

He added: “I have always lived and breathed Surrey. It’s where I arrived, it is what has shaped me. It is where I became Deputy Lieutenant and now have the privilege of serving as High Sheriff once again, this time without the challenges of a pandemic being in the forefront of the role. I very much look forward to visiting charities and community organisations in the County and meeting the people who make Surrey the wonderful County that it is. I am grateful for what Surrey has offered me and made me – a part of the fabric of Surrey’s society. I am now being given the opportunity to play my part in supporting and strengthening that society.” 

As is the remit for the role of High Sheriff, like the many Sheriff’s before him, Shahid will be a voice for the police, the prison service, courts, the third sector and charities during his tenure. Reverend Philip Simpson,  Imam Saeed Hashmi and Rabbi Kath Verdi will be the High Sheriff’s chaplains for the year and Ruby and Kieran will serve as the High Sheriff’s Cadets. As well as carrying out the ceremonial role of the High Sheriff and attending numerous events across the community,  Mr Azeem has five main aims for his Shrieval year.

1. To highlight the importance of multi faith groups working together for a better society. This follows on from the COVID Pandemic where Faiths played a major role in community Galvanisation.

2. To continue the work of his predecessor in the areas of mental health and wellbeing.

3. BAME community joining Surrey’s Police Force.

4. To support and promote sport initiatives in Surrey with the aim of improving health.

5. Working with the Judiciary and Police to highlight charities in the County that are not on the radar.

The outgoing High Sheriff – Tim Wates DL, congratulated Shahid on his appointment and talked about the highlights of his year in office and thanked his team for their support. 

As the ceremony drew to a close, HM Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey, Michael More-Molyneux praised the work of Mr Wates in his Shrieval year and thanked him for his commitment to the county. Finally the Shaikh Nisar – Muslim Chaplin of the Royal Holloway University London, addressed the audience and invited them to join them in breaking the fast before Prayers were to take place. A fitting addition to the ceremony and another first for Surrey. A reception then took place amid the stunning picture gallery at Royal Holloway University to celebrate the Installation of the new High Sheriff.