Councillor John Coulton was elected Mayor last week at the special ordinary meeting of Council held in Warialda.
Three councillors were nominated for the position. They were Crs Caskey, Coulton and King. The three candidates addressed the council meeting prior to the ballot, outlining their plans for the next 12 months. A preferential ballot was then held, with Cr Coulton gaining the majority of votes, after preferences were distributed.
Cr Catherine Egan was the only nomination for the position of Deputy Mayor and was elected unopposed.
Cr Caskey made the point in his speech, that local government is in a “tenuous position”. He said “we raise around 25% from rates to run the shire, then we sit around like a third world country waiting for …money from the State and Federal Government.” Cr Caskey urged council to become pro-active in working to achieve constitutional recognition for local government, so that on-going funding is assured. “We have an obligation and an opportunity to educate the people of the shire so that when the vote comes, voters will know what the benefits will be to rural Australia,” he said.
Cr Caskey advocated erecting signs at the entrances to Gwydir Shire to raise awareness about the issue with the suggestion of a slogan saying “A fair go for regional and rural Australia”.
In his speech, Cr King said he agreed with a lot of what Cr Caskey had said. He also said that he has a “passion for strategic thinking.” Cr King said he would like to have councillors suggest five of the most important things they believe council should be doing for the Shire in the next five years, then agree on priorities for the next one to five years with the goal of “giving us something to go to the community with.”
Cr Coulton admitted to his lack of knowledge about local government but said that he had vast experience with community organisations and a long history of community involvement. He said he would be coming to the position of Mayor as “completely impartial” along with a good grasp of meeting procedure.
The new Mayor acknowledged the work of the immediate past Mayor, Cr. Bob Tremain, who did not seek re-election, and the Deputy Mayor, Cr. David Rose, who likewise did not seek re-election. “Both these Councillors worked tirelessly to improve our Shire and I thank them for their efforts,” he said. “I am looking forward to working positively with Deputy Mayor, Catherine Egan, the staff and all the other Councillors during the next 12 months and I congratulate Catherine on her election,” the Mayor said.