STANTHORPE'S Peter Blundell appears set to be the Southern Downs region's second mayor since amalgamation, with a clear trend in his favour at the close of counting in the council election yesterday.
The Deputy Mayor finished with a commanding lead of 4546 votes at the close of counting yesterday afternoon, well over 2000 votes ahead of his fellow Stanthorpe councillor and mayoral contender Mally McMurtie.
The top-polling Warwick candidate at the end of counting was Jim Rickard, who finished with 1729 votes, followed by Darryl Evans on 1439, Phil Buddle on 1331, Lindsay Goodwin on 1144, Kim Olsen on 594 and Gina Doulis on 396.
The total votes counted at the weekend was 13606 and around 3000 votes have been collected this morning by returning officer Garry Adcock and counting will re-commence shorly.
Several thousand more votes are expected to come in over the next couple of days, with more than 23,000 postal ballots issued in the region.
Cr Blundell, who was unable to be contacted yesterday, on Saturday night speaking from Stanthorpe told the Daily News he was "not prepared to declare", but also said he was "delighted" with the way the numbers had fallen and was feeling confident about his position.
All but one of the top eight contenders for councillor, Killarney's Jamie Mackenzie, are either sitting or former councillors.
Outgoing councillor and mayoral hopeful Mally McMurtrie last night said while there were still plenty of postal votes to come in, she believed Cr Blundell's hold on the top job was "done and dusted".
Declaring her 17-year political career over, Mrs McMurtrie said she wished Cr Blundell all the very best and while disappointed at not becoming the region's first female mayor, said it was democracy in action.
"The people have spoken and they have sent a clear message," she said.
"I think we are going to have a very good group of people around the council table, with a lot of experience.
"Believe me, it's a tough job."
A team of about two dozen polling staff worked feverishly from 6pm on Saturday night, counting the 13,500 votes already returned by mail.
They began their shift by sorting the mayoral ballots into piles prior to counting, with Cr Blundell's stack clearly visible as the highest.
The count finished about 10.30pm and re-commenced at 8am yesterday, with all votes counted by about 2pm.
Counting of councillor votes began on Saturday night and will resume today, along with mayoral ballots, once returning officer Garry Adcock has been to the post office to collect further votes to have come in.
Saturday night's cold and wet conditions kept all but the most seasoned election watchers indoors, with only a small number in attendance in the town hall foyer, where the tally was displayed electronically.
The Daily News website received plenty of hits as we updated the progressive tally, and readers can log on throughout today for further updates.
Votes which arrive by mail can still be counted provided the return envelope is dated prior to Saturday, and votes can be counted up until next Tuesday, when the poll will be officially declared.
Initial fears on the part of some candidates that a councillor result could be weeks away appear to have been unfounded.
LATEST ROUND OF RESULTS
Mayor (Final result for the weekend)
Peter Blundell: 4546 votes
Mally McMurtrie: 2222
Jim Rickard: 1729
Darryl Evans: 1439
Phil Buddle: 1331
Lindsay Goodwin: 1144
Kim Olsen: 594
Gina Doulis: 396
TOTAL votes counted so far: 13,575
Councillors (Top 8) update Monday morning:
Ross Bartley: 8210
Jo McNally: 8194
Cameron Gow: 6861
Vic Pennisi: 6760
Jamie Mackenzie: 6538
Neil Meiklejohn: 6530
Denise Ingram: 6253
Glyn Rees: 6200