CR Don Hill wasn’t there. Neither was Cr Lorraine Brunt.
And, as expected, after fracturing her hip, Cr Jeanette Harding wasn’t there either.
It was the last meeting of the often volatile 2012-2016 regime of the South Gippsland Shire Council last Wednesday.
And you can draw your own conclusions about who was missing and how the last meeting, albeit short, was one of the more harmonious in the past four years.
Cr Fawcett, who moved the voting on the only item on the agenda, the adoption of the shire’s annual report, took the opportunity to praise departing councillor Kieran Kennedy, for his years of service, which included a term as shire president.
Cr Kennedy was attending the meeting after being barred from the September council meeting for a breach of the councillors’ code of conduct in that he allegedly sent an objectionable email to the CEO Tim Tamlin.
He did not stand for re-election.
But it was all sweetness and light at his, and the council’s final meeting.
“I would like to congratulate Cr Kennedy on his distinguished service to the people of the South Gippsland Shire,” Cr Fawcett said.
“Cr Kennedy and I have had our moments but he has been pivotal in some of the best things this council has done in the past four years and throughout his time, notably with the South Gippsland Rural Land Use Strategy, also the development of the shire’s financial strategy.”
He also said that Cr Kennedy’s unique “political antenna” had saved the council from making mistakes in that area.
“I’d also like to thank Bob, as there will be no other opportunity in the present circumstances, for his term as mayor, which has been hard in the past year due to issues we as councillors have had difficulty in reconciling.
“I’d also like to compliment Marilyn (Cr Newton’s wife) for her support.”
In turn, Cr Kennedy made some closing remarks, initially about achievements detailed in the annual report, including about the shire’s swimming pools, while expressing a note of concern about a dramatic fall in library lending.
“That is a trend we are going to have to take particular note of in the future when considering the need for a new library.”
Cr Kennedy said that in his dealings with other municipalities, especially metro councils, it was apparent they didn’t appreciate the difficulties country councils have in making ends meet.
“We’ve got 159 bridges and 3300km2 of area to look after and we’re often pushing water uphill trying to manage that while delivering a reasonable level of services.”
He also had some advice for the new council.
“It’s a difficult proposition being thrown into a room with eight other councillors and also working with a large bureaucracy.
“I hope the new council will be able to respect each other and have a productive time as a council because that’s what the people of South Gippsland want.”
Cr Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks was the only other councillor to speak, before some closing remarks from the mayor.
He said that, in his experience, the South Gippsland Shire Council operated a far more open, helpful and engaging shire than most in Victoria.
“Behind it is the attitude of this council which is much better than the way metropolitan councils deal with their people.
“I can at least go out knowing that this council deals with its people in a healthy, helpful, open and engaging way,” he said.
The mayor Cr Newton made the final remarks of the four year regime, thanking councillors past and present, the staff and his family for their support.
Kennedy and council bow out gracefully