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16 September 2020
By DEAN LAWSON
Horsham mayor Mark Radford believes a new Horsham council must continue to set a high benchmark when pursuing major projects.
He said after confirming plans to step away from Horsham Rural City Council next month that projects that had a profound long-term positive impact on communities were rarely easy.
“On reflecting on my time on council I feel proud to have been involved with some very successful large-scale projects, such as the redevelopment of Horsham Aquatic Centre, Horsham Town Hall and Horsham College,” he said.
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“We’ve had some wins and when you look back it’s a reminder that nothing of value comes easily.
“These projects have been challenging – but we need to keep doing them to allow Horsham and the broader region to reach its potential.
“When the town hall project ended in 2016 and I was allowed to stand on the stage for the opening it was quite a defining time for me, my family and others who had committed to it.
“To see how it has blossomed has been quite encouraging.
“And back in the early 2000s I remember writing a few letters regarding the aquatic centre, and the opportunity to join a fundraising committee.
“It was really my first entry into the ‘tent’ for this type of thing and it evolved into the Big Splash community relay. It was the first time I had worked with the council and also the first working environment where not everyone was necessarily on board.”
Cr Radford, who will turn 62 next month, said 12 years of experience in local government had also made him aware of a need to pursue and celebrate ‘small’ projects and achievements.
“While acknowledging these large accomplishments it’s important to also recognise and value the smaller wins – the relatively little projects – that go to supporting communities,” he said.
“For example it was lovely to be able to get Natimuk Men’s Shed up and running and to get Natimuk’s historic courthouse back open and being used by the community.”
Cr Radford, who also runs an electrician business, said he had decided against standing again for council after chatting with his wife Anne and friends and considering an ever-changing family environment.
“We have a beautiful young grand-daughter and our general family situation has changed,” he said.
“I’ve always had the full support of family but going another four years would be pushing it a little bit.”
Cr Radford joined the council in 2008 and has had four stints as mayor – 2014, ’15, ’18 and ’20.
He described his time on the council as a great life experience and encouraged people to consider nominating regardless of age, gender or background.
“It’s important to have a mix of people on council and the mindset should be to join council with an open mind, but be prepared to learn. There is much to learn – it’s not straightforward – but there are opportunities to gain many skills,” he said.
“Candidates need to consider there is a significant time commitment and when you have the privilege to serve as mayor there are even more hours. But there are safety nets in place to provide support.
“I’ve always considered representation like a relay race. When I was elected a baton was passed to me and when I retire I will pass the baton on.
“Councils are like big ships that need steering and the governance side is really important.
“But the primary role of councillors is advocacy – to consider that smaller communities are no less important than more populated areas or no less entitled to services. It’s about advocating for all.
“When you become a councillor you inherit history and a certain amount of direction from previous councils. Of course a new council forms new council plans, but much is referenced from the past while looking to the future.
“I believe Horsham is growing from a large country town to a small regional city and understanding how that fits into the big picture is important when deciding what’s best for the municipality and the surrounding region.
“From my experience, many councillors don’t fully understand what the role of Horsham is until they sit around a table and meet government, industry and other representatives.
“Sometimes it can be difficult to get that understanding across to the broader community.
“In the end we need to stand with straight backs and say we are a growing regional city.”
Mr Radford said he had appreciated working with three Horsham chief executives and the leadership of five different mayors ‘all of whom have made a significant contribution to our community’.
“I have also appreciated the friendship and support from other councillors and council staff,” he said.
“I also acknowledge the support and encouragement from my wife Anne, our children, and my parents. Being a councillor is a family commitment.”
The entire September 16, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!