Pulling to­gether

Mayor putting her hand up for re-elec­tion

Seymour Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - By ALI­SON O’CON­NOR

The past 12 months have passed in the blink of an eye for Mitchell Shire Mayor Rhonda San­der­son.

She was one of only three coun­cil­lors who sur­vived for an­other term at last year’s coun­cil elec­tions, and fol­low­ing that, she was quickly in­stated to the role of mayor by her fel­low coun­cil­lors.

But that role may — or may not — come to an end for Cr San­der­son at a spe­cial meet­ing to be held tonight, when Mitchell Shire’s nine coun­cil­lors elect a mayor and deputy mayor for the next 12 months.

The mayor is elected an­nu­ally, but cur­rent may­ors can be elected for a suc­ces­sive term by their fel­low coun­cil­lors if they wish.

While Cr San­der­son is keen to take on the role for an­other 12 months, she said there were oth­ers who had de­clared their in­ten­tions to nom­i­nate for mayor.

‘‘When I was elected 12 months ago, with six of the nine coun­cil­lors be­ing new, they all ba­si­cally just looked over to me and said ‘I think we need some­one with ex­pe­ri­ence in this first year’ and be­cause it was my se­cond term as coun­cil­lor, I was happy to do it,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s been re­ally en­joy­able to be hon­est. I ac­tu­ally didn’t think I would en­joy it as much as I have, but it’s been great so I would love to do it again.

‘‘Be­cause you’re rep­re­sent­ing coun­cil, you get to meet so many fan­tas­tic peo­ple from all across the shire and across the state, and they are do­ing great things for the com­mu­nity, so that’s been re­ally en­joy­able.’’

It’s cer­tainly been a whirl­wind 12 months for the pop­u­lar coun­cil­lor.

While most res­i­dents would only see her when she’s smil­ing for pho­tos or bob­bing up at events around the shire, there’s cer­tainly a lot more to the role of mayor than meets the eye.

‘‘By law there are ex­tra du­ties the mayor has that other coun­cil­lors don’t have,’’ she said.

‘‘So ob­vi­ously you’re the face of coun­cil at events and meet­ings, you’re the me­dia spokesper­son for coun­cil, and you’re also help­ing to guide coun­cil­lors in their role.

‘‘The phrase that’s used that ap­plies to most Vic­to­rian may­ors is that they are ‘the first among equals’, so a mayor can’t go in to the cham­ber and dic­tate to the oth­ers and say ‘we are not do­ing that’. No, they chair the meet­ings and they have to be im­par­tial. I have just one vote among nine, so in that sense I have no more power than the oth­ers.

‘‘The past six months in par­tic­u­lar have whizzed by for me.

‘‘In the four-year term of Coun­cil, that first six months is prob­a­bly the busiest be­cause by law you have to cre­ate a new coun­cil plan for the next four years, and then there’s the bud­get and a few other statu­tory things that you have to have sorted in the first six months and oth­ers you have to do in the first year, so it’s been re­ally busy. Busy but en­joy­able at the same time.’’

Cr San­der­son con­trib­utes much of that en­joy­ment to the eight other coun­cil­lors that are by her side.

She firmly be­lieves that this group could be ‘‘the best coun­cil we’ve ever had’’, and has noth­ing but good words to say about the team she is work­ing along­side.

‘‘This new coun­cil is re­ally good. They’re in­tel­li­gent, they’re ma­ture, and they’re think­ing about the com­mu­nity more than them­selves so that’s re­ally great,’’ Cr San­der­son said.

‘‘They’ve all got dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives on things be­cause of dif­fer­ent life ex­pe­ri­ences, and we just sort of talk about things and come to a de­ci­sion as a group.

‘‘Re­ally, we’re just about get­ting things done. I think prob­a­bly the big­gest achieve­ment we’ve made as a coun­cil in the first 12 months is that we have come to­gether as a co­he­sive team which makes life so much eas­ier, and you get so much more done than if you’re dis­tracted by other things.’’

The cur­rent crop of coun­cil­lors are cer­tainly get­ting things mov­ing, with the new coun­cil plan, a pos­i­tive bud­get, and lo­cally, the Sey­mour Struc­ture Plan kick­ing off.

Re­flect­ing on the past year, Cr San­der­son said the new coun­cil had achieved so much.

‘‘The cur­rent coun­cil was sworn in last Novem­ber, and by Fe­bru­ary we were work­ing with the com­mu­nity to de­velop a num­ber of cru­cial plans, in­clud­ing the four-year Coun­cil Plan, our 2017-18 Coun­cil Bud­get and long-term fi­nan­cial plan,’’ she said.

‘‘It has been a real team ef­fort and the work the coun­cil has done dur­ing the past 12 months would not have been pos­si­ble with­out coun­cil­lors, coun­cil staff and the com­mu­nity all pulling in the same di­rec­tion.’’

Com­mu­nity mem­bers are wel­come to at­tend the May­oral vote, which will be held from 7 pm tonight at the Broad­ford Coun­cil Cham­ber.

Rhonda San­der­son

Crunch time: Mitchell Shire Mayor Rhonda San­der­son is up for re-elec­tion tonight.

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