BENDIGO mayor Jennifer Alden will vie for the city's top office against her deputy Andrea Metcalf as potential candidates begin ruling themselves in or out of the race.
Councillors will lock in the city's next leader in three weeks' time after deciding that November 9 will be the day of a special meeting to settle the matter.
In Greater Bendigo, the public elects councillors for four years and those officials then elect mayors and their deputies every 12 months.
No councillor has begun canvassing their colleagues.
But Jennifer Alden has confirmed she will seek a second consecutive term and will argue for stability and continuity at a critical stage of the pandemic.
She intends to portray past experiences working in the public health sector as an asset into 2022, when Australia will probably still be grappling with the pandemic.
Cr Alden also plans to tell colleagues she has spent the past year forming professional relationships with leaders outside of council which could be leveraged for Bendigo's benefit.
"In some ways, it feels like I am only just getting started," she said.
Part of that feeling has come from the realities of the pandemic, which have stopped her performing many of the community and event roles mayors so often say is the most rewarding part of the job.
"We've had four lockdowns with many events large and small not happening this year," she said.
Deputy mayor Andrea Metcalf hoping for promotion
Councillor Andrea Metcalf will also contest for the top job and has ruled out attempting to return to the deputy mayor position if she loses.
"There are others who have said they might like to do it and I would want to give them that exposure," she said.
"We all grow as councillors when we do a different role."
Cr Metcalf has been on the council since 2016 and has been deputy mayor since 2020, helping to lead a council with priorities like weathering the pandemic and moving to a circular economy.
Four-time Bendigo mayor Rod Fyffe has ruled out a tilt this time around.
So have first-term councillors Vaughan Williams and Dave Fagg.
Greg Penna is among those whose work and other commitments leave him short on the time that mayors and their deputies need for their extra duties.
He said he would keep an open mind about anyone who put their hand up for the top jobs.
"I'll wait until I have heard people's spiel, ask a few questions and see what would be best for Bendigo," Cr Penna said.
Could former mayor Margaret O'Rourke return to top job?
Councillors Matthew Evans, Julie Sloan and Margaret O'Rourke are yet to respond to queries about any aspirations they might have.
Matthew Evans and Julie Sloan have served on the council for one year.
Cr O'Rourke ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2020 but has served in the top job four times since she arrived at the council table in 2016.
Like Cr Alden, she has used the office of mayor to forge strong contacts with decision makers in other levels of government.
And like both Cr Alden and Cr Metcalf, Cr O'Rourke has had experience in senior council leadership roles during the pandemic.
She was the mayor in early 2020 when the pandemic arrived in Australia and the council was forced to dramatically rewrite an almost completed budget to make room for emergency funding measures.
Cr O'Rourke is the only councillor since the City of Greater Bendigo amalgamated in the 1990s to serve four consecutive terms as mayor.
Bendigo's councils have traditionally chosen a new mayor every year, which has allowed people with different leadership approaches and skill sets to take on the top job.
It is unclear whether the current council - which has served Bendigo since the election in late 2020 - will reintroduce that practice past November 9.
It did decide not to adopt two-year mayoral terms when it met on Monday night and voted on a series of procedural matters, which it could have done under current state legislation.