THERE will be at least two candidates for the position of South Gippsland Shire Council Mayor, and the $76,000 allowance that goes with it, when councillors sit down next week to decide.
Returning councillors Lorraine Brunt and Andrew McEwen are the front runners and they confirmed their interest in the top job at the declaration of the poll last Wednesday.
Cr McEwen was unequivocal.
“I think I will be, yes,” he told the Sentinel-Times, returning refreshed from a family visit to Adelaide last week.
Cr Brunt was slightly more circumspect but is known to be canvassing support behind the scenes.
“Possibly yes, I’m considering it,” said Cr Brunt last week.
With new councillor-elect, Meg Edwards she was interviewed on Gippsland ABC Radio last week about the result in the election and the job ahead.
Despite the support for “a collaborative approach” from all successful candidates, in their first official statements as councillors-elect last week, the council already looks to be dividing 6-3; Crs Hill, McEwen and Rich in the minority camp and Crs Argento, Brown, Brunt, Edwards, Kiel and Skinner loosely associated in the majority camp.
Given that scenario, Cr Brunt looks to be the favourite but councillors may yet decide to make a statement about their independence and elect Cr McEwen or someone else.
Here’s how the other councillors responded to a question about their mayoral intentions:
• Ray Argento: I haven’t considered it
• Aaron Brown: No, not at the moment
• Meg Edwards: No
• Don Hill: No
• Maxine Kiel: No, not this year
• Jeremy Rich: I don’t know. I would have thought someone with experience would have been best
• Alyson Skinner: At some time in the future I would like to be but someone with experience first I would think. I’ve got an open mind.
The vote for mayor will be taken at the council’s statutory meeting on Wednesday, November 16 in the council chambers at Leongatha.

Getting to know the new councillors

AS MUCH as anything else, last Wednesday’s declaration of the polls after the South Gippsland Shire Council elections, by VEC Returning Officer Ian Savage, was more a chance for councillors and shire staff to meet and greet than for candidates to receive the congratulations of the community.
There was a smattering of unsuccessful candidates and community members present, most if not all connected to the winners, at the declaration session in the Leongatha Memorial Hall.
And there were some warm embraces and handshakes but with the room dominated by council staff members and the successful candidates themselves, it was mostly about getting on with the job.
The shire CEO Tim Tamlin appeared to be meeting many of the new councillors for the first time and he said later that while the administration had a tentative calendar of meetings and events set out for the next three months, it would be up to the council to
decide its direction.
Each councillor-elect was invited to the podium to make a few remarks and after the obligatory photo opportunity, they adjourned behind closed doors, it must be said, to work out the timetable going forward.
Although they won’t officially be councillors until they are sworn in next Wednesday, November 9 at 12.45pm, they had a full afternoon of discussion around the council table.
Items on the ‘closed session’ agenda included introductions by senior management, details about the councillor transition program, and a councillor ‘tool kit’ and information pack.
There was an OHS induction, a set of mock council papers and appointment of committee papers distributed and preferences for council meeting times looked at.
After lunch councillors received some training on the use of their computers and mobile phones, they discussed plans for the Oath of Office ceremony and the requirements of the Councillor Code of Conduct.

Alyson Skinner
I’m really excited about the opportunity. I think we’ve got a great chance to build on the legacy of the past council. We’ve got a good blend of old and new. People want to move on from the past negativity on the council. I intend to be
accessible to the community.

Ray Argento
First I’d like to thank my family and my supporters. I want to make sure our region grows and prospers and is a good place for people to come to and live and also to visit.

Jeremy Rich
I’d like to thank all of the people who supported me, including the other candidates I met during the campaign. I would like to think we can work collaboratively as a council in the best interests of the community.

Aaron Brown
It’s not an easy job to be a councillor and I wish everyone all the best for the time ahead. But I’m excited about the future and I think we bring a broad range of skills to the table that we can use to get some good outcomes for the community of South Gippsland.

Maxine Kiel
I’m excited and proud to have been given the opportunity to represent the community. I feel I’ve got a good relationship with the community and I’m delighted to be part of this dynamic new council.

Lorraine Brunt
I’d like to thank the community for the opportunity. I am just looking forward to getting back to the table to see where we are going as a community and as a shire. I think we can work together as a council.

Don Hill
I’d like to thank the departing councillors but in particular I’d like to say that I have nothing but the highest admiration for Kieran Kennedy for the contribution he has made. And Jeanette Harding too who brought the benefit of her fantastic connections with the community. I’d like to thank all the candidates who stood up. It’s not always easy especially when you have some things said about you that aren’t nice. I’m looking forward to what we can do as a council. I think we’ve got a good group of nine councillors. During the election, I called on the people to support independent candidates and that’s what we got. We have a range of complementary skills and if we can work together, it’s a fantastic opportunity for the shire.

Andrew McEwen
I’d like to congratulate the successful candidates. I think we all bring something unique in the way of skills. The community has voted for significant change. I have spoken to all councillors-elect and they have all expressed a desire to work collaboratively together and to look after the common good. Given the problems in the dairy industry and farming in general, I think we need to have a focus on economic development. We’ve got some magnificent products coming out of this area, everything from dairy products to truffles and home produce and we need to make the most of that. We also need to be working collaboratively with the community to develop a shared vision.

Meg Edwards
Firstly I’d like to thank Ian (Savage, returning officer) and Cheryl (Bruce, former returning officer) for the challenging role they performed and also the shire staff. I’d like to thank my family and the people who helped me. I think we’ve got a great group of people here to represent the community. We’ve got to learn from the past, live in the present and plan for the future but not dwell on the past. You can have a robust debate but after the decision has been made, we need to get behind it as a council. We need to make our message consistent and really try to remain positive as a community and that goes especially for the media.