It is nearly a year ago that our community elected our new Greater City of Bendigo Council for the next four years. That year has flown, and suddenly it is time to elect a new mayor.
The election proved to be something of a watershed moment for our Bendigo citizens. They had an opportunity to remove a group of councillors who had proved to be a toxic mix imploding on itself rather bitterly after four years of in-fighting.
I am making a case to ask councillors to consider allowing our present mayor, Margaret O’Rourke, to continue her role for another year...that is, if she so chooses.
The role of mayor can be for one or two years. With such a changeover of personnel which now includes a number of quite dramatic changes in the structure of the City of Greater Bendigo council staff, everyone involved with council could do with some stability and time to settle in and adjust to the changes which are still evolving.
The new Bendigo council has been on a steep learning curve during this year. Councillors, led by the newly-elected mayor, stress the importance of listening to each other’s viewpoints and council meetings have been both respectful and thoughtful.
The responsibilities of a councillor today are quite onerous. Their decisions impact on the community as a whole, and are judged by the community. This council has demonstrated that it is prepared to work together for the common good of all citizens. Council meetings have reflected that intent.
Decisions which are announced these days follow as a result of consultation by councillors and the community. As they have done in the past, councillors are offering opportunities in their wards to meet and talk with their local constituents.
Not all decisions will be popular, but councillors have been elected for the purpose of making those decisions and that’s what we expect them to do. Of course councillors have not always voted together on every issue and that is a healthy and democratic process which everyone respects.
The leadership of Margaret O’Rourke as Mayor for the first year of this new council has been critical. Part of that task has been to re-establish confidence in our local council. The task of merging a group of very divergent individuals into a cohesive group who can work through the many issues that come before council today requires the tactical skills of a Solomon.
With a background in management, having previously worked as a manager of Telstra Countrywide, and having held a number of board and management roles within the community, she has been able to bring that experience to the table when conducting council business.
In putting forward a case to keep Mayor Margaret O’Rourke for another year I wish in no way to denigrate the other councillors as any of them would also make a fine representative as mayor of Bendigo.
That opportunity will be there if they so choose, in the coming years. Many councillors stay on for more than one election cycle. Rod Fyffe and James Williams are fine examples.
It’s never possible to please all of the people all of the time but the standing of this council in the community is already making a difference to the way we speak of and respect the councillors and the work they’re doing.
We’re all beneficiaries of this new stability and professionalism which is demonstrated in council today. Let’s stay with the status quo for another year.