Baw Baw Shire Councillors voted unanimously at yesterday’s mayoral elections to keep Warragul Ward Councillor Diane Blackwood as mayor in 2012.
L-R: Cr Blackwood and Cr Jones
The council also voted unanimously for Drouin Ward Councillor Tricia Jones to become deputy mayor, replacing Warragul Ward Councillor Tony Wolfe.
The special council meeting organised for the event lasted just 10 minutes, with the decisions having been made in a private meeting of councillors on Sunday.
In addition to electing the leadership team, councillors approved new councillor committee representatives. Cr Blackwood and Cr Kostos will sit on the new Baw Baw Business and Tourism Voice committee.
Cr Blackwood told The Warragul Citizen she hopes her next term as mayor will be more stable than the last.
Click here to listen to full interviews with Cr Blackwood and Cr Jones.
“I think that we’re able to probably be a little bit more organised with our councillor group now going forward. I’m hoping that nobody else is planning on retiring any time soon and with the elections next October we will have to go into caretaker mode in September so we only have a short period of time to do some fairly significant things before the next election,” Cr Blackwood said.
Cr Blackwood said the council’s budget is a primary concern for next year.
“We certainly have got a lot of work to do with our budget as a group. We need to come together and debate quite strongly where we’re going to spend the ratepayers’ money and be upfront and serious about informing the community on why and how we’re making our decisions,” Cr Blackwood said.
Improvements to roads are a high priority in these budgetary considerations.
“You can’t deny the fact the roads are the most important issue that the community are telling us about, and we are listening,” Cr Blackwood said.
The replacement of the deputy mayor without promotion is a break from the council’s recent tradition of electing the deputy to the mayor position, as has happened since the deputy position was introduced in 2009.
Cr Wolfe said the decision was made by the council, but said he is “happy not to be involved” with the position.
Cr Jones said she hopes to gain a better understanding of the council through the position.
“I know as mayor and deputy mayor you get to understand things that happen behind the scenes so you have a bit more depth to what’s going on in council, and that’s what really really (sic) interests me,” Cr Jones said.
“I have some understanding, but I have more of an understanding of what I don’t know, and so I figure the more that I can put myself in situations where I’m a part of a bigger picture I will learn more and be able to be a better councillor.”
Community engagement was raised as an issue in the mayoral response to the vote, with Cr Blackwood suggesting Warragul and Drouin Ward councillors were “not as active in [their] community groups as [they] would like to be.” Cr Jones disagrees.
“I’m not so sure that I agree with that statement in fact. I have a lot of community involvement… so I don’t feel that I’m not in touch with my community,” Cr Jones said.
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