SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council now has a new mayor and deputy mayor to lead the municipality during the final third of its current three-year term ahead of the next round of Victorian local government elections that is expected on October 26, 2024.
Tarwin Valley Ward councillor and immediate past deputy mayor Claire Williams was appointed unopposed as mayor, while retiring mayor, Strzelecki Ward’s Cr Nathan Hersey, was the only contender for the role of deputy mayor.
The two councillors have literally swapped jobs, one for the other, with the evident backing of their fellow councillors.
The public gallery of the council chamber in Leongatha was filled almost to overflowing at the council meeting held specifically to elect the mayor and to determine and elect the deputy mayor on Wednesday November 22, 2023.
As stipulated by the Victorian Local Government Act 2020, the meeting was chaired by the Shire’s chief executive officer Kerryn Ellis until the new mayor was declared.
Ms Ellis advised that as the nominations for Cr Williams and Cr Hersey as candidates for mayor and deputy mayor respectively were the only ones received ahead of the meeting, elections as such for the two positions were not needed on this occasion.
However, after the two candidates had officially accepted their nominations, formal motions were still required to “proceed to elect a mayor” and then to “duly elect” each candidate for their one-year 2023-2024 mayoral and deputy mayoral terms, both of which will end at 6 am on the State’s council elections day next October.
Cr Adrian Darakai, seconded by Cr Jenni Keerie, moved to proceed to elect a mayor “of the South Gippsland Shire Council”, then Cr John Schelling’s motion to elect Cr Williams as mayor was seconded by Cr Darakai, with both motions supported unanimously.
Ms Ellis congratulated Cr Williams and invited her to assume the mayoral seat and to chair the rest of the meeting.
As the Shire’s newly-elected ayor, Cr Williams said she wanted to “express my gratitude to my fellow councillors.
“I feel a profound sense of humility and I’m honoured to have been entrusted to leading Council for this term,” she said.
“I would like to take this opportunity to commend Cr Hersey for his work as mayor this past year, setting an example of what excellent leadership looks like.”
Cr Williams also thanked Cr Moyha Davies who served as mayor during the first year of the current council’s three-year term and observed that both Cr Davies and Cr Hersey had shared their experiences with her when she was new to local government.
“This councillor group shows strength in its diversity and will continue to pool experience, develop knowledge and create opportunities as they move forward because they are willing to be involved in many different ways across the shire and within the sector,” Cr Williams said.
“Council is in the business of making our ‘home wonderful’ by advocating and providing for the needs of our community.
“Councillors commit to getting the job done, communicating well and often, continuing to be transparent and engaged and deliver the Community Vision and Council Plan.
“Making the right decisions is also important; not what’s popular, but what’s right,” she said.
“I am eager to embark on the journey ahead and engage with our fantastic community in all its challenges and opportunities.”
Electing the Shire’s deputy mayor was next on the agenda, with Cr Mick Felton, seconded by Cr Darakai, moving to appoint Cr Hersey in an action that also attracted unanimous vote.
“I am privileged and honoured to have been elected by our councillors as deputy mayor for the final year of this council term,” Cr Hersey said.
“I am looking forward to further contributing to South Gippsland as a councillor, while also contributing in an important leadership role,” he said.
“Together, we will work to support and represent our community whilst delivering tangible results.”
Shire CEO Ms Ellis said that “it’s gratifying to witness councillors express their interest in the mayor and deputy roles, recognising the significance of these positions to the operation of council.
“This current group has excelled in fostering active community engagement and providing support to our community,” she said.
“I would like to thank Cr Hersey and Cr Williams for their commendable service in their mayor and deputy mayor roles over the past year, and to congratulate Cr Williams and Cr Hersey on their well-deserved appointments,” Ms Ellis said.
“I look forward to continue to work with them closely.