AFTER 25 years of running his Kangaroo Flat pub, Barry Lyons had become disillusioned by local government.
So when retirement beckoned, he decided to take the plunge and put his heart into something worthwhile.
“I wasn’t happy with how the council was running – they were doing more fighting than decision-making and I didn’t like what I saw,” he said.
Barry contested the seat of Kangaroo Flat in 2008, running against incumbent mayor, David Jones.
Even his best friends said he was wasting his time.
“Everyone told me not to bother – that I wouldn’t beat a sitting mayor because I had no experience in council,” he said.
But Barry won.
“I only just got over the line. It was just like how I feel now with the mayoral position," he said.
"At first I couldn’t really believe it but it definitely sunk in pretty quickly."
Ever since, Barry has been fighting to “make the city better than it already is” with the support of his wife of 49 years, Betty, and his five children.
And when he takes up the city’s top job on November 4, Barry said he would continue on with the fight.
“It’s every councillor’s dream to be the mayor – to complete the act,” he said.
“And I don’t want to change too much about how we go about business now.
“I just want to make sure we’re all on the same page and working for the same result – to make Bendigo the most envied city in the state.”
Over the next 12 months, Barry will focus on cohesion within the chambers, resolving problems that arise with the Bendigo Hospital development, and ensuring that no areas of the city are left behind.
“We’re seeing so much exciting growth and lots of new projects which is great for the city and great for residents,” he said.
“With that, however, comes issues for council to deal with.
“I’ve always made sure that with new development, we put funds into surrounding areas so that nothing is left behind.”
He admits one of the toughest challenges will be the Bendigo Hospital project, which has already caused contention in council chambers.
But Barry said the parking and congestion issues would be dealt with once the project starts to take shape.
“It’s already been a massive struggle with parking, and I think we’ll eventually come to the agreement that paid parking is necessary, even with the planned multi-storey carpark.
“We just can’t do much until it takes stride.”
With Barry’s “steady hand”, he said he would try and maintain reasonable rate rises, as he has done in the past.
“It’s a balance and a half to keep people happy and build all that’s needed in the city,” he said.
“But when you have good people who realise we’re just making their lives easier, it’s not all that difficult.
“And while this year we’ve borrowed a bit, it’s all been accounted for in the 10-year budget and will allow us to have some impressive assets in the future.”
He said he is most proud of his commitment to ensuring the Edward Street carpark was built, and helping to decentralise Bendigo.
"I was always dedicated to the Edward Street carpark and I don't think it would have been built if it wasn't for me," he said.
"It's also great to see lots of towns making a name for themselves. Kangaroo Flat is known as the gateway to Bendigo now, and Maiden Gully is another town that is progressing rapidly.
"And we'll see lots more of this over the next 12 months.
"It's an exciting time, for sure."
But Barry knows he can’t do it alone, and said the council’s impressive staff helped make the city all that it is.
“We couldn’t do it without them, from the chief executive to the directors, right down to the gardeners,” he said.
“And when I address my fellow councillors, I’ll let them know that I’m boss and to respect me, but that I’ll be fair and be there to stand up for them and be the front person.
“That I’ll be there to keep things going and that we can do this together.”
And while Barry admits he “hasn’t exactly got his head around the mayoral role”, he has finally accepted that it wasn’t a dream.
“When I found out late on Wednesday night, my wife was waiting up in bed with her arms crossed,” he said.
“When I walked in she said, ‘well?’
“I said, ‘I got it’, and she went absolutely ballistic.
“There’s still so much to learn and I’m still in a haze of excitement – it’s a bit of a blur. But I’m already loving every minute.”