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06 November 2019
By Colin MacGillivray
A potential exodus of Horsham Rural City councillors at next year’s election has triggered calls for people to consider running for local government.
Five of the seven current councillors have indicated they are unlikely to seek re-election when the council’s four-year term ends in October next year.
Cr Les Power was the only councillor to declare he would stand for another term, while Cr John Robinson said he would base his decision on whether or not it was ‘in the best interests of the community’.
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With a large-scale changeover appearing likely, councillors have appealed for anyone interested in running for a position to start attending council meetings and learning the responsibilities of council life.
Mayor Mark Radford said while he would ‘never say never’, he believed it was time to step down after serving three consecutive terms on the council.
“I think it is important to have this discussion because it gets people thinking in our community about possibly running next year, and we want to encourage people to start having those thoughts and planning ahead,” he said.
Cr Radford said he believed community interest in local government was strong and there would be no shortage of good candidates.
“I had a former councillor talk to me a few weeks ago and they were thinking of running again. I thought that was a good thing,” he said.
“As it comes a bit closer there will be training opportunities and information nights so people can find out what it’s all about. Talking to other councillors and former councillors is also a good thing to do to get an idea of what it involves.”
Cr Josh Koenig said he was leaning towards not running for a second term because of increased work and family commitments.
He echoed Cr Radford’s call for people to start seriously considering a council position a year out.
He said it was an opportunity for people to help shape community discussion.
“I wanted to have a focus shift towards community services and youth wellbeing, and I’m pretty happy with recent council achievements including developing a youth strategy that led to the formation of a youth council,” he said.
“The City to River plans to transform the city will roll over the next 20 years. It’s a long-term plan, so I think any councillors over the next term and the term after that will be able to sink their teeth into that.
“Then we’ve got the ongoing rates issues about how we can make it fair and equitable across the board.”
Recently released data from responses to a council City to River Masterplan community feedback period showed Horsham residents’ opinions were divided on the plan.
Upgrades to the city’s riverfront – including a potential café and new bike and walking paths – were well received, while the biggest concerns were around the potential elimination of the Horsham Lawn Tennis Club and Horsham Croquet Club courts in the botanic gardens.
Cr Pam Clarke, who has served three council terms and was mayor from 2016 to 2018, agreed the masterplan would be one of the main priorities of the next council group.
“We need some people who are progressive and forward-thinking to put their hands up, and part of my job over the next year will be to encourage people to consider running for council,” she said.
“The City to River plan is one of the big-picture items, so whoever comes onto the next council will have that as a guide for what they plan to do.”
Cr Robinson, who has at times been at loggerheads with other councillors over what he described as inadequate community consultation regarding the City to River plan, said it would remain a challenge into the future.
He said if he decided to stand for another term, he would continue to try to put aspects of the plan he found unworkable ‘to one side’.
“It’s fair to say the three years to date have been less than smooth sailing for this group of councillors. There is a whole lot of community angst, specifically over the City to River plan, that we’re going to have to deal with,” Cr Robinson said.
“Whatever arrangement we end up with in the next council has to be better than what we’re doing at the moment, otherwise it’s just not fair to the community.”
Cr David Grimble will depart after three council terms, including two years as mayor from 2012 to 2014.
He said listening to the community would be key for the next group of councillors.
“It’s important to test your decision making against the community and allow them to judge whether you’ve done a reasonable job or not,” he said.
“It makes you accountable if you do multiple terms because you allow the people to judge you on your merits.”
Cr Alethea Gulvin said she intended to leave after four years on the council to focus more on family.
As the youngest councillor, she said it was important for a plurality of views to be represented.
“I believe there needs to be a variety of voices on council,” she said.
“All demographics need to be represented and it’s important that we have a mix. Having diversity is part of what makes a community come together.”
Cr Power said he hoped to be re-elected for another term and work with fresh faces on the council.
“Four out of the seven this time were new councillors. It’s gone through its processes and we’re getting things done,” he said.
The entire November 6, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!