The votes are all counted and the nine councillors have been announced, with several vying for the top job as Federation Council’s first mayor.
Candidates and media were invited to Corowa’s Oddfellows Hall on September 12 where the Returning Officer Karen Mills formally announced the successful candidates in what has been an interesting time since nominations opened on July 31 and an astounding 42 candidates came forward.
The order of successful candidates is as follows – Shaun Whitechurch, Patrick Bourke, David Longley, Paul Miegel, Fred Longmire, Bronwyn Thomas, Gail Law, Norm Wales and Andrew Kennedy.
The newly-formed council will have an opportunity to deliver on local issues that are standing still or may have been overlooked over the past 12 months while council has run in administration.
The new councillors were sworn in at a ceremony late Tuesday afternoon, while the first meeting of the new Federation Council will be held on Tuesday, September 26 when the mayor and deputy mayor will be elected.
Cr Whitechurch, Cr Bourke and Cr Longley all polled strongly with first preferences and had guaranteed themselves a seat on council by Sunday morning.
However, remaining candidates faced a three-day wait to see where they stood as second preferences were distributed.
Cr Miegel, Cr Bourke and Cr Longmire have all publicly announced their interest in the top job as mayor.
Cr Bourke, who owns Billabong Agriculture in Urana and Oaklands, said while it was disappointing his number two on the ticket, John Doyle, did not get a seat on council he was looking forward to working with those who were elected.
“Community committees will be heavily involved from our end so it will be like having a mini shire behind us; you just have to look at new ways of representing people,” he said.
The former Urana Shire Council mayor and past deputy mayor said he was keen to throw his hat in the ring for mayor given his past experience.
One of the councillors’ first decisions will be to decide when and where council will hold its monthly council meetings.
Cr Bourke said the old Urana Shire Council held council’s monthly meetings starting at lunchtime.
“It meant that anyone who was working could work in the morning or go over business papers and sit down after lunch and then straight into the council meeting, which was good because then you got family time at the end,” he said.
“I would hope that’s the way it could continue instead of night time meetings.
“Urana has a good council building and in the spirit of the merger you would consider sharing it and it would be good to move the meetings around.”
Immediate past mayor of the former Corowa Shire Council, Paul Miegel, said the new Federation Council has a great opportunity to move forward and he is happy to be on board.
“It is a very fair representation across the council area and I am looking forward to a council that will work together and take the council forward,” he said.
Cr Miegel, who is keen to run for mayor, said he was unsure which way councillors would vote on the monthly council meetings.
“There will be those who will be available for days and there will be those who will prefer nights, you have to be mindful of freshness of mind, like if you have worked all day and then have to turn up to a council meeting then that can be a challenge,” he said.
Cr Miegel said council meetings had been lengthy in the past when councillors had been present.
“Do we look at minimising how lengthy the council meetings are and do we take steps to try and shorten them down to a more manageable level for people, these are all things we need to discuss and so we have lots of work to do.”
Howlong’s Lowe Square committee of management chairman David Longley welcomed the early announcement that he had won a seat on council.
“Pat got on which is good and there’s a couple that I haven’t met like the Mulwala councillors but, yes, it looks like a strong council,” he said.
Cr Longley would like to see the meeting location for councillors shared around.
“That’s my opinion but whether the councillors will agree, I don’t know,” he said.
“It would be very easy to have it in Corowa but Corowa itself is only part of the whole Federation Council.”
Former Corowa citizen-of-the-year and operations manager at Corowa’s Focus Engineering Shaun Whitechurch is one of the new faces on council.
Cr Whitechurch said he believed people were after some new blood.
“If people want change, they have to make changes and I stuck by that,” he said.
“People judge you on what you have done, not what you are going to do.
“I am pretty well known around the town so people have seen what I have done over the years and it’s not just a one-off thing, I have done things for a long time and I think people looked at that and thought I would be good for the community.”
Joining Cr Whitechurch is retired highway patrol officer and former Corowa Shire Councillor Norm Wales who stood as number two on Cr Whitechurch’s ticket.
Cr Wales said he was hoping to get the town moving along.
“We need to listen to what the community wants and make it a happy community that goes ahead with ideas,” he said.
“I am looking forward to working with the new council that has been elected and it is great to see Urana got the support with Pat because that is most important as it’s a large area to be represented.”
Cr Wales would like to see the council’s monthly meetings moved around the council area.
“I think we should spread the meetings around and perhaps hold them in the early afternoon or evening because sometimes residents want to come along and have a listen, so I think it may go that way at this stage but we will wait and see,” he said.
Retired businesswoman Cr Law, who served two terms with the previous Corowa Shire, is looking forward to getting a good cohesive council working together again and is undecided if she will run for mayor at this stage.
“I don’t think so, it depends who else puts their hand up,” she said.
Cr Law has a preference for council’s monthly meetings to be run in the daytime.
“I think people are much more alert and attentive in the day, but we will wait and see what happens,” she said.
Cr Law and Bronwyn Thomas were the only two women candidates elected out of the total of 11 female candidates.
“Women think differently to men, it’s a bit sexist, but we definitely need a woman’s voice on council,” Cr Law said.
Former Corowa Shire Mayor and Brian Unthank Real Estate agent Fred Longmire is looking forward to a resumption of confidence in the administration and council collectively.
“I look forward to giving the community everywhere an opportunity that embraces activities within the council and to make it a great place to live,” he said.
Cr Longmire said there were many variables in deciding what time of day or evening councillors should meet up for the monthly council meetings.
“If you had sub-committees that deal with certain issues such as finance and traffic management and so forth, you can set up these committees within the council itself so that they deal with matters and bring reports to the monthly council meeting.
“Council should look at the option of doing that so you can deal with some issues in a much shorter timeframe and then you could meet in the evening, it just depends on how council sees it happening as we move forward.”
Cr Longmire said he would be available to take on position of mayor.
“You need to have the majority of numbers so if that’s the situation that unfolds for an opportunity then I certainly will be standing for the mayoral opportunity,” he said.
Over at Mulwala, builder Andrew Kennedy is looking forward to working with all the councillors, especially the younger ones.
“It will be exciting for sure,” Cr Kennedy said.
“I was born and bred here and I wanted to put something back. I’m glad for those people who voted for me. Obviously preferences got me on.”
Savernake Road Mulwala primary producer Bronwyn Thomas described winning a seat on council as ‘fabulous’.
“I’m very much looking forward to it,” she said.
“I’m eternally thankful for me being first on the (voting) ticket - other ticket members were so supportive and I thank the community in the Federation Council area for their support too.
“I want to see the community reunited.”
Federation Council General Manager Chris Gillard said council staff was looking forward to working with the nine new councillors.
“We will be working together to achieve good local outcomes and sound decision making to bring about long-lasting community benefits for current and future generations of the Federation Council area,” Mr Gillard said.