He’s got some firm ideas on how to restore the South Gippsland Shire Council’s reputation, and according to new mayor, Cr Don Hill, he plans to employ some of the lessons he taught in the classroom.

Here’s what he had to say to his colleagues before a majority of them gave him their support in taking on the top job last Wednesday:

“This council has an excellent plan which does represent the policy platforms put forward at the last election by all current councilors. Unfortunately, these programs are not being implemented as quickly or efficiently as I would like and this council has become distracted with debate rather than getting down to implementing the program.

“As a school teacher with 30 years experience in student management and several years as head of a mathematics department with 16 staff, I understand the ways and manner of dealing with disparate views and personalities. I have an excellent understanding of the local government act and the role and responsibilities of the mayor. I would have no tolerance for any inappropriate interpersonal behaviours.

“Councillors are passionate individuals and robust debate can occur. It is very important that the mayor knows the boundaries of such debate and is capable of nipping minor issues in the bud before they can escalate out of control. The mayor needs a firm hand and the desire to be fair and impartial. I would aim to be inclusive and available to all councilors. I see the role as an enabler of good process by an implementation of correct practice. The chair should be focused on managing the councilor interactions during meetings and workshops rather than promoting their own viewpoint. If elected to the position my first task would be to have the council group determine a set of agreed behaviours and processes that they wish to have in their meetings which I would ensure were followed.

“Rather than an adversarial approach to meetings, the mayor should pursue a consensus approach and reach agreement by building on common held beliefs towards a final agreed outcome.

“Over the last two years I have worked to build constructive relationships with other councilors and continued to develop better working relationships with the CEO and directors.

I have several ideas which I would like to see implemented to improve the working relationships between councilors and the executive team. Ideas such as:

  • the mayor being involved with high level discussions on matters such as budget preparation and other council plan initiatives ahead of the officers bringing a proposal to council as is currently done.
  • Establishing with agreement of councilors, subcommittees so that council as a whole can progress more work than currently undertaken.
  • A more strategic use of councillor discussion time to review progress and address key issues.
  • Each councillor brings their own strengths to the team and I would encourage each councillor to contribute where best they can.

 I believe the changes in the local government act will also entail more active involvement in such matters as the norm.

I believe I have the ability to think outside the square and think on my feet. These skills are needed in an environment where complex issues and often short timeframes come together to hinder good outcomes from those who tend to procrastinate. The role requires the mayor to be able to act when required and be decisive. Key issues currently facing council include:

  • Restoration of reputation,
  • Dealing with caravan parks,
  • Customer Feedback process within Planning,
  • Rate reductions,
  • Increased service delivery from increased revenue but not from ratepayers rates,
  • Stronger focus on economic development.

“To date council has not done enough work at the regional level at GLGN towards such projects as climate adaption, sustainable agriculture, and regional transport facilities in partnership with fellow councils. I would promote a greater effort in this area.

“I believe I have the skills required to conduct the mayoral role to obtain positive outcomes for the community. We have as a council many programs of great importance to the community in the coming 12 months and I feel that the focus of the mayor on these matters is crucial with the ability to enable them to be achieved with a positive outcome. The Mayor needs to proactively and positively represent council to the community.

On a personal note, I have no land development interests, I am not using council as a stepping stone to a political career at state or federal level, and I do not represent any vested interest group. Initially, I entered council with one goal, to represent ratepayers and residents to achieve outcomes that were wanted by the community. My motivation remains the same and I desire nothing more than to be given the opportunity to use my skills and abilities to this end.

“Finally, it is my view that this council is in transition from the old ways that councils operated to a new form of council actively engaged with the community. It is important that such a process is managed by a mayor that believes in this outcome rather than being afraid to take the initiative with the result that nothing is achieved or that the outcome fails.

“I respectfully request your support to elect me as your mayor for the next 12 months to action these ideas.”