A bumper field of council candidates packed into the Victorian Electoral Commission’s makeshift office in Mundy Street on Tuesday, with one question on their mind.
Which lucky three had secured the coveted number one spots on the ballot papers for next month’s election?
The winners were newcomers Yvonne Wrigglesworth and Ian Dean in the Eppalock and Lockwood wards respectively, and incumbent James Williams in the Whipstick ward.
Old hands Barry Lyons and Rod Fyffe, the city’s former and current mayor, took out the bottom two spots on the Lockwood ward ballot paper, but both took the disappointing result in their stride.
“Ballots are ballots – I’ve won from the bottom, I’ve won from the top, I’ve won from in between,” Cr Fyffe said.
“Ballots are just what happens, and from my point of view we’ve got the order, we now go ahead and make sure we get the right people elected for each ward so Bendigo has the best councillors for this community.”
The VEC’s John Bain, returning officer for the Bendigo election, said candidates placed great stock in securing first place on the ballot paper, though the advantages were debatable.
“That’s why most of the candidates have rolled up today, because the number one position is highly prized among candidates,” he said.
“Everyone may have different ideas about [what difference it makes], but I’m sure candidates would like to see their name first on the ballot with the number one next to it – I don’t know, maybe is psychological.”
Mr Bain said the 32 candidates who put their hand up in this year’s race represented half as many again as those who nominated last time around.
“Four years ago there were 21 candidates for nine positions on council, and this time around we had 32 candidates for nine positions on council,” he said.
“So the number of positions on council hasn't really changed but there’s been a more than 50 per cent increase in the number of candidates who have nominated.”
After ten years as a City of Greater Bendigo councillor, current mayor Rod Fyffe knows a thing or two about local government elections.
Advice for beginners
With campaigns due to begin in earnest in the coming days, Cr Fyffe had a few words of advice for the large number of nominees contesting their first election, saying he trusted the city’s residents to make the right decisions.
“Just be out there and do what you can,” he said.
“People will know very often the track records, and people who are community minded in particular, and so from that point of view I'm confident that the community will pick a terrific set of councillors.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Mark Weragoda, who ran for council for the first time four years ago, said the best advice was to “be strong”.
“When I say be strong, it’s a big commitment, it takes three-plus days easy and there’s a lot of reading, a lot of direction to adhere to,” he said.
“You need to commit fully.”