It was back in 1987 that Dean Shelton moved to the Costa del Sol with his parents. At the time he was just 10 years old, but he can still remember his dad asking how he would feel about moving to Spain and leaving his school and friends behind.
“When are we going?” he replied.
Since then the 44-year-old has worked his way up to become the councillor of Foreigners' Affairs, Commerce, Consumers and the Environment in Manilva - a post he has held since the local elections in May 2015.
On a day-to-day basis he looks after the interests of the huge expat community in the municipality, which includes Sabinillas, El Castillo and Puerto de la Duquesa.
Born in Nottingham, Dean went to a local Spanish school in San Enrique de Guadiaro before taking over his first business in Puerto de la Duquesa at the tender age of 17, called Video Club Square Eyes.
Before Dean stepped into the world of politics in June 2011, he ran a successful estate agent in Torreguadiaro for ten years - before he decided to close it down in 2010.
Helping people every day
As for how he got into politics, he told SUR in English: “I've always been interested in politics. It puts you in a position of power where you can help people every day.
“I never had any intention to get into politics. I started off doing sofa politics, reading the paper and talking to the television. Then one day the mayor of Manilva at the time came to me and asked me if I would join them on the next election campaign in 2011.
“She felt that the foreign community was one that she needed to tap into for votes.”
Forty-two per cent
Putting it into perspective, Dean explained that of the 15,000 people registered as living in the municipality of Manilva, 42 per cent are foreign - and of that group of foreigners, almost half are British.
In June 2011 he got his first job on Manilva council as an “area director” - which, according to Dean, is a “right-hand man” to a councillor.
He added: “In my first four years as area director I gradually realised that I wanted to represent the community and the way to do that was to either become a mayor or a councillor. Becoming the mayor was unrealistic in this town, but it was realistic that I could fight an election and become a councillor - so that's what I did.”
In May 2015, Dean became the first ever foreign councillor in Manilva
“It felt awesome,” he said.
“The good thing about being a councillor is that I'm in a position to do a lot of good. You're being paid money to help people. If you like helping people and you can better your own town, for me there's not a better thing to do.”
And for Dean, who lives in Sabinillas, Manilva is somewhat different to the other Costa del Sol towns popular with foreign residents.
“We have a very high percentage of expats who are working age and work in Gibraltar, which makes it different from the rest of the coast.
“We have a lot of young working professionals that work in areas other than bars and restaurants, such as online gaming, shipping and law firms. As well as that we have a lot of retirees, but we have more residential expats here than holidaymakers.”
And over the years Manilva has welcomed its fair share of celebrities, with Dean meeting Bernhard Langer, Tiger Woods, Mike Reid and Robert Kilroy Silk and having Kevin Keegan round for family barbecues.
An easy way of life
As for what Dean likes most about the Spanish way of life, he added: “I like the way it used to be more. I liked it when Spain was a bit simpler, as one of the beauties of this country is the easy way of life, the lack of stress and the good quality fresh food.
“Basically people from the north of Europe would give their right arm to live here and we've got it for free. So for me, Spain is an absolutely awesome place to live, but I do prefer the Spain of old from 15 to 20 years ago, when life was just that little bit easier.”