AFTER months of speculation, the 32 men and women seeking a seat on the Bendigo council have been formally declared.
With only nine positions – three in each of the Eppalock, Lockwood and Whipstick wards – up for grabs, it promises to be a fiercely contested ballot.
A tumultuous four-year term, largely derailed by bitter infighting and personality clashes among the councillors, has disgruntled residents calling for change.
The difficult question voters must ask themselves next month, however, is just who are the best nine candidates to bring about that change?
Neither Rod Campbell nor Lisa Ruffell are standing this time, meaning there will be at least two new faces seated around the decision-making table.
But such is the level of disenchantment among many in the community with council’s performance, few of the seven incumbents will be feeling confident.
Even the sheer number of candidates – 32 this year compared to 21 in 2012 – indicates there are no shortage of people who think they can do better.
The contest for the three seats on offer in the ward of Lockwood promises to be tight, with 12 candidates in the running.
Incumbents Barry Lyons and Rod Fyffe drew poorly at yesterday’s ballot and will occupy the last two spots on the voting form.
The ward also includes incumbent Elise Chapman, recently declared Australian citizen Samuel Tshisekedi and Matt Emond, the partner of Bendigo MP Lisa Chesters.
Eppalock features incumbents Helen Leach and Mark Weragoda, whose reputation suffered a huge blow when he was caught out last year lying about a drink-driving offence.
Yvonne Wrigglesworth, who announced her candidacy in June last year, has the advantage of top position on the ballot paper, while endorsed Greens candidate Rosemary Glaisher sits second.
The Whipstick ward promises to be no less competitive, with incumbents Peter Cox and James Williams both standing again.
Twenty-six-year-old Thomas Prince drew strongly with second place behind Mr Williams, while leading anti-mosque campaigner Julie Hoskin was last.
Bendigo residents have long been crying out for change.
In a few short weeks they will finally get their chance.
- Ross Tyson, deputy editor