MICHAEL Whelan was officially declared as Bass Coast Shire’s new Mayor last week.

And he has a pivotal year ahead to guide council through.

After being Deputy Mayor over the past year, Michael has had his eye on the top role and felt he was ready to take it on.

Cr Leticia Laing was also nominated and elected as Deputy Mayor.

Cr Whelan was quick to get to work in his new role at last week’s meeting, overseeing a number of crucial agenda items, including social housing and council’s annual and quarterly performance reports.

The coming year is set to be another big test for council, with state and federal elections and Victoria hopefully emerging from the pandemic.

Top items on Cr Whelan’s list include further adapting the shire to climate change, focusing on social and affordable housing, and continuing to strongly advocate for funding and projects.

“It’s really about turning climate change around to the potential opportunities and business opportunities,” he told the Sentinel-Times last week.

“As well as assisting our farmers; the work we do with Landcare groups is really important and the carbon farming initiative is important at the moment.

“There’s also food organics recycling – there are jobs in that and you save so much.

“Our economy will pivot and change, there are a whole lot of opportunities.”

And with the coming state and federal elections next year, Cr Whelan said seeking funding for an aquatic centre on Phillip Island and a new one in Wonthaggi would be crucial.

“Aquatics is a big issue and we’ve never been in a better position from a strategic point of view to argue that,” he said.

And with a wealth of experience dealing with government departments, including two decades as a CFA officer, as well as a ministerial adviser in the Cain Government and an executive in the Kennett Government, Cr Whelan believes he has all the tools necessary for the job.

“I haven’t done it for personal ambition, I’m doing it because I believe I’ve got a strategic focus to things and I’m strong in that area,” he said.

“I plan to be very collaborative with councillors and will certainly be sitting down with all councillors about their priorities and the community groups.

“Empowering community groups is important to me.”

Cr Whelan is also looking forward to the construction of the new Cowes Cultural and Community Centre, and he plans to push for more active transport options in the shire.

“Surveys show a lot of people would ride their bikes,” he said.

“Ultimately, I see Bass Coast becoming a real centre, not just for our wonderful beaches and penguins, but a place where you can get on your bike and go to a winery.

“It’s going to change the configuration of our visitor economy.”