STRZELECKI Ward Councillor Nathan Hersey was elected unopposed as South Gippsland Shire’s new Mayor for a one-year term at an additional council meeting held in Leongatha on Wednesday November 23, 2022.
The only candidate for the mayoralty, Cr Hersey had nominated himself prior to the meeting, backed by Tarwin Valley Ward Cr John Schelling as seconder.
Similarly, Tarwin Valley Ward Cr Clare Williams was the only candidate for Deputy Mayor, nominated by Cr Hersey and seconded by Cr Schelling, and she, too, was duly elected.
Himself Deputy Mayor for the first year of the present democratically-elected South Gippsland Shire Council’s three-year term, Cr Hersey now replaces former Mayor, Coastal /Promontory Ward Cr Mohya Davies.
As required by the Victorian Local Government Act 2020, Shire chief executive officer Kerryn Ellis assumed the chair to conduct the mayoral election.
Ms Ellis invited both Cr Davies and Cr Hersey to make some end-of-term remarks before proceeding with the election.
While a rolling montage of photographs chronicled the activities, events and achievements of the council’s first year, Cr Davies said that serving as Mayor for 2021/2022 had been “an absolute privilege” for her.
“After a difficult period for the shire, of being in administration for two-and-a-half years, it has been an honour to be part of the return of democracy to South Gippsland,” she said.
“As a council, we have all been passionate about connecting and engaging with the community, while adhering to our code of conduct, and we have held each other to account, and have worked hard to establish a really strong council.”
Cr Davies listed some of the highlights that occurred during her mayoral term, including completing and opening the Mirboo North swimming pool, Leongatha’s Bair Street streetscape redevelopment, and the Foster Basketball Stadium.
She described this year’s Shaping South Gippsland consultation as the Shire’s “biggest community engagement ever”, resulting in much public input to the municipality’s current Annual Budget, its Financial and Council Plans, the Community Vision 2040, and other strategies and directions.
“Councillors have shown up at events across the Shire and have made a massive effort to engage with our community, as well as meeting with state and federal government representatives and working on advocacy initiatives for South Gippsland,” Cr Davies said.
“Thank you all for giving me the opportunity to be the Mayor during this first year back as an elected council”.
Cr Hersey also said that he felt “honoured and privileged” serving as Deputy Mayor, which was “a role I took on with a really serious approach and have enjoyed during a very busy 12 months.
“I, too, welcomed the return to democracy,” he said.
Cr Hersey added the Great Southern Rail Trail extension to Loch, the Arts and Culture Strategy, and the popular Coffee with a Councillor sessions to the list of the council’s successes for the past year.
“We as South Gippsland councillors should be proud of what we’ve been doing, and proud how our community has turned up, shown up, and engaged with us,” he said.
“We are achieving for our community but there is still more to be done.”
The actual elections of Mayor and Deputy Mayor each required a formal vote at the meeting, so Cr Hersey moved that he become Mayor, seconded by Cr Schelling.
Cr Hersey also moved that Cr Williams be elected as Deputy Mayor, with Tarwin Valley Ward Cr Adrian Darakai as seconder.
Both motions were adopted unanimously.
The new Mayor thanked outgoing Mayor Cr Davies for the “fantastic job” she had done, and for “sharing your [previous local government] expertise, history and knowledge in the role.”
He also thanked his municipal colleagues; councillors, executives and staff, from chair for the second year of the council’s three-year term.
“We share a united vision to serve our community, and it’s not unrealistic for the community to expect good governance,” Mayor Hersey said.
“We were asked to bring back democracy to South Gippsland and to get on with it, and we’ve done it.”
Deputy Mayor Williams said she was “very excited” before thanking her fellow councillors for their support.
“I’ve been on a journey of growth in local government, and I’m keen, ready and eager to continue all of our hard work with community while staying strategic.”
After the additional meeting Mayor Hersey said one of the main tasks for the Shire is “advocacy for funding, for roads, connectivity and health services.
“The other big thing is the South Gippsland Planning Scheme review to ensure that future growth and change acknowledges and respects the design and feel of the towns and villages in the Shire, which I believe is very important.”