OUT-going mayor, Cr Lorraine Brunt rated the pre-election speech by mayoral candidate, Cr Aaron Brown, as one of the best speeches she has heard delivered at the council table.

Others in the public gallery for last week’s Special Statutory Meeting, called to elect a new mayor and deputy mayor, agree.

Cr Brown ultimately lost the count 4:5 to Cr Don Hill, but his speech still makes interesting reading. We re-print it here in full:

The Mayoral role carries significant responsibility. The role needs someone who is committed to respecting others, listening to other opinions, and then leading accordingly.

Over two years on this council, and over 12 months as Deputy Mayor, I have consistently valued and listened to my fellow councillors opinions. I have learned from the diverse life experiences and values that each person has brought to this council. I want to lead by continuing to consult with my fellow councillors, and by working together and building a strong unified vision for our region.

I believe integrity is a critical character trait that is required to successfully carry out this role. Integrity as mayor means leading a united team with respect, compromise and patience. Ensuring we work together towards a single goal. And that goal is the betterment of the South Gippsland Shire.

As a council we will face three main challenges over the next year.

Firstly, we as council need to decide what we want to do as a collective regarding the Chief Executive Officer role. This process needs someone who is able to work with the councillors in a constructive and cohesive way to ensure the best outcome for what is clearly one of the most important decisions we will make in this term of council.

Secondly, there are a number of priority projects that require external funding. These priorities include renewed streetscapes for Leongatha, a hub for Korumburra, and the rail trail being extended. My experience as the Gippsland representative for Rural Councils Victoria has given me important advocacy skills and an insight into funding processes at a state government level which will equip me to achieve these outcomes for this Council.

With support from this Council, South Gippsland has a bright future and the increasing demand for housing in the last 18 months is testament to this fact. We will be increasingly sharing in the tremendous growth of Bass Coast, Baw Baw and Cardinia shires. We need to be ready for future growth in the shire and manage it well. We need to be financially and organisationally prepared to manage this growth. I have the necessary experience in representing the shire to support this process. If elected Mayor I would work with all of you to advocate for the critical infrastructure that we need to support this growth.

Our third and perhaps greatest challenge is to work together cohesively. We owe this to the people who elected us. The recent resignations of two councillors highlights that the council needs to improve its own internal culture, and the way it treats each other and other people. I believe that the decision of choosing a Mayor and who the successful candidate today will have a large bearing on whether these issues can be improved and addressed moving forward. My vision for South Gippsland Shire is of a place where we build each other up. We need to do better. I want to be someone who extracts the best of everyone, for the betterment of the shire.

The next year for this council is extremely important regarding the strategic goals we have, and I would ask all councillors to carefully consider their options regarding the mayoral role. The mayor will need to lead a team that builds on the foundations that have already been laid by past councils to ensure that the South Gippsland Shire is nimble and dynamic enough to deal with a variety of issues in what is a rapidly changing world.

I ask councillors today to carefully consider which candidate is best positioned to lead the shire at this crucial time. This council is in an unprecedented position at present. There is a state government representative in our presence, to hold us to account. The question is, can we work together to perform the task given to us by the ratepayers and residents of the shire? This may be our last chance to do so as a council.

If elected mayor, I will follow the due processes that are already in place to ensure a cohesive council. I will lead with integrity and with a single-minded focus on the people of the shire. I will lobby hard for the future of our ratepayers and residents. I will respect all of you as we do all of this together.

Finally, a quote on leadership from Nelson Mandela: “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory, when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”

In closing, as mayor I would try to lift all councillors up in order to build all of our capacity. United together the South Gippsland Shire can achieve amazing things. Thank you.