IN A five to four vote by South Gippsland Shire Council, Cr Warren Raabe of Strzelecki Ward was elected to the position of Mayor for the next year in front of his sole rival for the position, Cr Jeanette Harding of Coastal Promontory Ward.
Tarwin Valley Ward Cr Mimmie Jackson was easily returned to the position of Deputy Mayor on a vote of eight to one, with the other contender, Cr Mohya Davies of Coastal Promontory Ward, raising a lonely hand vote for herself.
The election was conducted by Council’s Chief Executive Officer Tim Tamlin presiding as temporary chair following Cr Jim Fawcett’s completion of his second and final term as Mayor, and was witnessed by electoral Officer Cheryl Bruce of the Victorian Electoral Commission.
Cr Raabe’s platform was one of years of business and communication experience coupled with five years of local government “apprenticeship” on Council.
He tied this background to a personal drive to complete unfinished projects and to tackle new ones defined by the Council Plan and policy priorities but not yet commenced.
“We’ve got a lot started and now its time to finish those projects and tie up loose ends,” Cr Raabe insisted.
“I want to work with the CEO and each Councillor towards common goals and get back into driving us forward.”
He continued, “I want to follow the emerging trend of a strategic approach to providing infrastructure and services, and being more representative of community, instead of just concentrating on the traditional (municipal) nuts and bolts.”
Cr Raabe advised colleagues that he had arranged his business affairs over the last few months to free himself sufficiently to devote the necessary time to the job.
Spending more time on lobbying other government levels and agencies to ensure South Gippsland increased its relatively low share of external funding, putting South Gippsland forward to be the leader of the Gippsland Local Government Network, setting the Shire up to be at the forefront of local government initiative and best practices, and expanding Council’s plunge into interconnected land use and community planning, were all listed as his priorities.
In support of her bid to be Mayor, Cr Jeanette Harding reminded that she had been awarded for her work during a previous term as Mayor, and had the skills and experience to pursue matters in the best and future interests of the people of South Gippsland.
She argued that she had, “the most care, time, heart, passion and commitment” and was “not interested in personal financial gain in any field.”
Cr Harding promised to “work as a strong team with the diversity of skills among Councillors and staff so that South Gippsland was the envy of its neighbours and beyond.”
Both candidates referred to the very recent election of the Coalition State Government, with Local Member for Gippsland South Peter Ryan as Deputy Premier Elect, as a promising sign that South Gippsland would be in an advantageous position to lobby for improvements and funding better than had been possible in the past.
The split of votes between the two candidates was typical of the two blocks that Council commonly divides into over a range of issues.
Cr Raabe’s elevation to the privileged position of Mayor was enabled by support from Councillors Jim Fawcett, Jennie Deane, Mohya Davies and Mimmie Jackson.
Cr Harding was backed by Councillors Kieran Kennedy, David Lewis and Bob Newton.
After the vote result was announced, Cr Raabe thanked those who had supported him and hoped he would not let down the expectations of those who had not.
“In the short 16 years that South Gippsland Shire has been a municipality, I think this is the most united and strategic group to be on Council and I look forward to working with Deputy Mayor Mimmie Jackson, Councillors and staff to move South Gippsland forward.”
The contribution of Council’s first Deputy Mayor, Cr Kieran Kennedy who resigned in protest from the position over a Council decision after eight months in the role, was gratefully acknowledged.
On behalf of Council, Cr Jackson warmly and formally thanked Cr Jim Fawcett for his Mayoral efforts and skills, which included an ability to grasp the kernel of a problem, being the key to group decision-making, using of humour to diffuse tense situations and being through and passionate on behalf of his community.
In his turn, Cr Fawcett thanked his wife Joan, work colleagues, fellow Councillors and Council officers (with special mention of some in particular) for their support, assistance and patience during his historic double term as Mayor.