Mayor leaves proud legacy
It is incredibly difficult to describe the looming departure of Mayor Ron Yuryevich as anything other than the end of an era.
Since his election to what was then still the Shire of Boulder in 1988, he’s spent nearly a quarter of a century dedicating himself to this city and this region.
The numbers speak for themselves: his 19 years as mayor will see him top out Ray Finlayson (16 years), who he defeated in the 1992 mayoral election, and come in behind only Sir Richard Moore (29 years), whose governance effectively laid the groundwork for the city as it stands today.
But it’s not just longevity Mr Yuryevich shares with his illustrious predecessors — it is legacy as well.
The Kalgoorlie Golf Course, the Burt Street revitalisation and the Ray Finlayson Sporting Complex — these are projects driven by Mr Yuryevich that have changed and will change the face of the city.
The development of the second runway at Kalgoorlie Airport — something the mayor points to as a personal highlight — gave the city access to an unprecedented revenue stream and allowed much of the construction that has come since.
He has remained a passionate opponent of the insidious spread of fly-in, fly-out work practices in the best way possible, ensuring the community grew into a place young professionals and their families would be more than comfortable relocating to.
As much as the “Live, work and play” slogan became something of a local political cliche, it’s undeniable that — particularly in his second mayoral stint post-2003 — Mr Yuryevich, in partnership with long-term CKB chief executive Don Burnett, has played a key role opening up the city to families and tourists alike.
And in a period when the State Government has allowed a steady stream of revenue and resources to flow out of the region, Mr Yuryevich has never halted in his public criticism, and his willingness to stand up for the people he represents.
He’s copped his fair share of public flak in return, becoming something of a lightning rod for public criticism of the City, but boasts an electoral record that shows, when push came to shove, Kalgoorlie-Boulder voters were prepared to back him in.
Given the knowledge and expertise he developed, it’s no surprise the State Government began to call on his services as a special council commissioner, everywhere from Perth to Geraldton to WA’s north, and he continues to be a respected figure among local governments across WA and Australia.
While there’s plenty to celebrate, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for the boy from Boulder.
The relentlessly combative approach so many approved of also alienated plenty of others, particularly when it came to bringing the public onboard for key projects like the stalled resort plan for the golf course.
Fights picked with the State Government over the Goldfields Arts Centre and the SES headquarters dragged out disputes that otherwise seemed resolvable, and the tacit approval for a controversial workers’ camp on the city’s outskirts was a definite political misstep last year.
He also had an undoubted tendency to take negative publicity personally, and was not shy about letting a succession of council reporters (and editors) know about it.
But as someone who’s found themselves on the end of more than one angry mayoral missive, the passionate responses struck me as a reflection of just how much of himself Mr Yuryevich invests in his work, and how seriously he takes the responsibilities of his office.
That he has been able to go full tilt in arguably the hardest job in town for the better part of two decades is a testament to his qualities as a person, and how much he cares about this City.
When he steps down in October, he’ll do so with a proud record of public service, and an enviable list of achievements.
The Miner congratulates him for his efforts, and wishes him all the best for the future.
Sam Tomlin is the editor of the
City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder Deputy Mayor Allan Pendal, former chief executive Don Burnett and outgoing Mayor Ron Yuryevich hard at work.