TWO weeks ago Daylesford's Lesley Hewitt wasn't even sure if she'd been successful in being elected at her first attempt to join the Hepburn Shire. But now, she has been thrust into the spotlight as the new mayor.
Cr Hewitt, the new Birch Ward councillor, was officially sworn in as mayor of Hepburn on Tuesday night, for what looms as a huge 12 months of economic recovery for the region.
Coliban Ward's Brian Hood was named as deputy mayor.
Cr Hewitt was one of six new councillors who took up their position in the council chambers, with only Creswick Ward's Don Henderson retaining his seat.
While it seems like there was a broom that swept through the region, Ms Hewitt said it was not quite as it seemed with three councillors having retired at the end of the last term.
"There is obviously some desire within the community for a change as it's the first time I've run for council," Ms Hewitt said. "Over the years I have had dealings with council and strong community interest such as coach and secretary for a local disabled riding group, Rotary, so I've had a lot of connections with a broad range of networks so I thought I could offer that.
"And also, you couldn't not be aware that the last consumer satisfaction survey was not positive. I thought some of the knowledges and experience I've had would be of benefit to the region."
Ms Hewitt said diversification would be the key to the region's renewal after the pandemic.
"The statistics for the shire show we've been one of the worst hit from COVID as a lot of our economy is tourism, accommodation and food services. It's not surprising we've been hardest hit," she said.
"One of the challenges for the council going forward is to make sure we get assistance from the state government but we also need to make sure we are building up other employment economic opportunities there are.
"We have prime agriculture land with a lot of farmers and a lot of artisan farmers who are producing high quality agriculture product.
"Our proximity to Melbourne means issues of sustainability and food miles are not as significant, so we need to leverage that.
"Personally, I grew up on a dairy farm in northern Victoria, when Craft moved away and was taken over by Murray Goulburn the factory closed and I've seen what has happened to that town.
"It's why we need to look at a range of economic development options and not put all out eggs in one basket."
Cr Hewitt has been associated with the shire for 25 years, spending 13 years as a non-residential rate payer, and having lived permanently for the past 12 years.
She comes from a background working within the sexual assault, children protection fields as well as at Monash University where she spent 20 years teaching social work.
She said she was excited to understand local politics and at this stage, through inductions, she understood the role at hand.
"At the moment we are all getting an insight into the breadth of what the issues are," she said.
"What we have seen is that there's a lot of very competent and committed staff working really hard to make sure Hepburn is well placed for the next four years.
"It's very impressive to see how the staff coped with everyone working from home, they've done a magnificent job and it's testament to the shire and the community as to how well everyone is complying with regulation.
"The shire will be lobbying for whatever it can get roads, infrastructure announcements, IT, tourism budget we're alert to it and we'll got for any opportunity we can take."
Chief executive officer Evan King said he was pleased to be working with the new-look council on the road to recovery.
"I look forward to working closely with both councillors, and the rest of the council team, as we move into a busy period, delivering important services and infrastructure projects for our community," Mr King said.