CANDIDATES TALK CANDIDLY
AS THE Local Government election of March 19 draws ever closer, our mayoral candidates aren’t holding back.
Incumbent mayor Jennifer Whitney says she is running again on “experience, integrity, results”.
Current deputy mayor Andrew Willcox says he is the “only choice for change”.
And newcomer Eric Oliver says he’s not bound by the politics of the past.
At a forum hosted by the Proserpine Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday night, Mr Oliver was first to take the floor, outlining his vision for sustainable development and how a council under him with a “citizen’s jury” would work.
When asked what he wanted to achieve in a first term, teamwork and instilling trust and confidence were among his priorities.
Cr Willcox said his top priorities were unifying the region, providing proper planning and better infrastructure and spending council money wisely.
Proserpine publican Thomas Dunne asked why, if unity was one of his aims, he hadn’t backed the current mayor more.
Cr Willcox was adamant the fault wasn’t his, saying “when you’re the mayor I think it’s your role to bring everyone together and to provide all the information to all the councillors – not just to get four votes”.
Cr Whitney however spoke of the horrors she’d been through in the last four-year term, coming into office with “great ambition” yet discovering the council was deep in debt.
She spoke about her darkest days, including having to beg Queensland Treasury “to try to keep the doors of the building open” and being the figurehead of a council labelled the “show pony on how not to do business” of the 77 local governments in the state.
She also spoke about her challenges within the boardroom where division has prevailed, confidential data has leaked, and projects she wanted to see succeed were “hijacked”.
When asked by MC for the night Reg Gillen what she was most proud of in her term, “I’d love to say I’ve delivered the town plan, but no, it got killed, I’d love to say Chinatown, but no, that got killed and I’d love to say the airport, but no, we’ve had high jinx behind the scenes with people going and stopping that in Brisbane,” she said.
During question time Mr Dunne said maybe Whitsunday Regional Council hadn’t been ready for a “strong female mayor” to which Cr Whitney conceded “male chauvinistic attitudes” had certainly been part of her daily struggles.
Other questions from the floor surrounded the development of the airport, of which Cr Whitney was fully supportive, as was Cr Willcox, “provided the deal is right” and likewise Mr Oliver “as long as due diligence is done”.
Cr Willcox fielded questions regarding the circulation of a Facebook post in which Division 6 candidate and former mayor Mike Brunker said he would “guide” him from the sidelines. His answer was, “I’m not going into this to be Mike Brunker’s puppet”.
“I’m my own man and I’ll make my own decisions accordingly,” he said.
MAYORAL CANDIDATES: Eric Oliver, Jennifer Whitney and Andrew Willcox