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New council on the way for Corangamite Shire

CORANGAMITE Shire Council could have a number of new faces next month.

Four of the current seven councillors have announced they will not be contesting the Corangamite Shire Local Government elections. 

Councillors Jo Beard, Ruth Gstrein and Geraldine Conheady will recontest for their respective wards, with councillors Simon Illingworth, Neil Trotter, Helen Durant and Lesley Brown deciding to call it a day. 

Cr Gstrein said she feels she still has a lot to offer. 

“I really enjoy the role,” she said. 

“We’re going to have five new councillors, with Cr Conheady just starting, I think it’s important to have some experience and continuity.”

Moving forward, Cr Gstrein said a focus would be on recovery from COVID-19. 

“Some businesses have been able to continue trading, while some have been heavily impacted,” she said. 

“There’s going to be a lot of work to be done. I think it’s going to be important to have good financial management.”

South Central Ward advocate Cr Beard will also re-contest and said she had “unfinished business”.

“I really enjoy being a local voice for the community,” she said. 

“I appreciate the flexibility of the role in the ways it allows me to support the community.

“I feel I have a number of unfinished projects.”

Cr Beard said she hopes to be able to support the community with its recovery from COVID-19. 

“There’s a lot of historical projects that I have been a part of and I would like to see them come to fruition,” she said. 

“I think it’s also important there’s some continuity of councillors.”

Cr Conheady, who was recently elected in the by-election said she wished to return to the role.

“The repercussions of COVID-19 and the state lockdown measures require active engagement to identify the areas of focus moving forward,” she said. 

“At the same time, the council cannot lose sight of its core objectives and responsibilities to deliver community services, asset and roads management and support to community organisation and clubs.”

Cr Conheady said she hopes to highlight and promote the strength of the shire’s agricultural base, particularly in dairy, which has continued to provide jobs and brings economic benefits to Corangamite Shire.

“My experience on council has embedded my motivation to represent the community and I’d really like to hear from residents and business owners about their concerns and ideas,” she said 

Cr Durant said a desire to have more flexibility with her time was behind her decision not to stand in this year’s council elections.

 “I’m just not prepared to commit to another four years,” she said.

“I have some other personal interests I wish to pursue and since I have nominated (in 2016) we now have a grandchild so we want a bit more flexibility with our time.”

Cr Durant said she had enjoyed her time in the role despite its challenging nature.

 “It’s been very challenging, I’ve certainly been out of my comfort zone at times and I’m not too confident being in the public eye – it’s not something I seek out,” she said.

“There are also big and important decisions to make, particularly around planning, and those decisions you make can have a big bearing on peoples lives so they’re always hard to make.

“But I’ve particularly enjoyed being able to help members of the public with issues they have had such as getting a disabled carpark or footpath put in or streetlights fixed.

“These things are really rewarding when you can help someone and usually they are quite simple decisions to be made.”

Current mayor and South West Councillor Trotter said he has enjoyed his time on council and has never regretted his decision to stand. 

He described it as an interesting, rewarding and satisfying experience. 

“At times it has certainly taken me out of my comfort zone and presented challenges but it has also meant that I have been forced to grow as an individual and to become a much better listener,” he said.

“Intellectually it has been very stimulating. So much of what we do as councillors revolves around listening and responding. 

“We are the conduits between the community and the first level of government.”

Cr Trotter thanked all the groups and individuals who had supported him in the role. 

“I have enjoyed working with our staff at Corangamite,” he said.

“We have a very good team at council. We run a very diverse range of services. 

“I wish to thank all our staff for their willingness to engage with councillors and for the productive working relationship we enjoy.”

Cr Illingworth announced he would not be returning for a second term and has instead taken up a position with Moyne Shire Council. 

He said the decision was made with “some regret”.

“I am a firm believer in the philosophy ‘drop-in but don’t drop anchor’ when it comes to politics,” Cr Illingworth said.

“I’m not sure politicians running solo marathons is a concept I like.”