SOUTH Gippsland Shire councillors have elected Coastal-Promontory ward councillor Kieran Kennedy as the new mayor of South Gippsland.
The Venus Bay resident has notched up around ten years as a shire councillor, but this is his first run as mayor. He will serve 12 months in the position, with Cr Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks, a former mayor of South Gippsland, as his deputy.
The race for mayor took place at the first meeting of the newly elected council last Wednesday and was a close tussle. Councillors Mohya Davies, James Fawcett, Don Hill and Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks voted for Cr Fawcett to take the top position, while councillors Andrew McEwen, Jeanette Harding, Lorraine Brunt and Kieran Kennedy supported Cr McEwen’s nomination of Cr Kennedy. Cr Robert Newton voted for himself. His vote then became the decider and he swung his support behind Cr Kennedy.
By contrast, Cr Hutchinson-Brooks, who has returned to Council for a second term after stepping down for the last term, was elected unopposed to the position of deputy mayor. He represents Tarwin Valley ward, where again he had a seamless transition to the role of shire councillor, as he, Jim Fawcett and Don Hill were the sole candidates for the three positions in the ward so there was no need for an election.
Addressing Council prior to his election, Cr Kennedy made much of his “priceless” experience as a councillor since 2003. He also promised integrity and improved community engagement.
He said he would make the return of rail to South Gippsland a priority and would lobby politicians accordingly.
He stressed the importance of laying the groundwork for priority projects in the first year of the new council and said Council had a big challenge in the unfunded superannuation bill but he had been part of Council in recent years when debts had been significantly reduced and he would work to meet this latest challenge, possibly with the help of a sovereign fund.
Community engagement, said Cr Kennedy, will be another priority. “We have let ourselves down on that in the past.” On that score he has plans to improve the shire’s Community Noticeboard in local papers by making it a more eye-catching black with white type and including a section ‘Did you know?’ to educate the community about shire matters such as the difference between VicRoads roads and shire roads.
Cr Kennedy promised to introduce an open-door culture at the shire, saying that as mayor he would be liaising a great deal with the chief executive officer but such talks would not be conducted in secret. Rather, anything that arose in such discussions he would bring to Council.
Cr Hutchinson-Brooks said that he accepted the position of deputy mayor with great humility. He would, he said, have been happy to serve under any of the councillors, but was “delighted and thrilled” to be announced as Cr Kennedy’s deputy. He said that six of the nine councillors between them brought a total of 60 years of experience in local government to the table “and we are already working well together”. He concluded by congratulating the last council, saying that it had prepared the groundwork well for the new council.