Region's leaders grasp the reins

Southern Downs new mayor Peter Blundell seated in council chambers with deputy Ross Bartley.
Southern Downs new mayor Peter Blundell seated in council chambers with deputy Ross Bartley.

NEW Southern Downs Mayor Peter Blundell has been sworn in as the region's leader and will be supported closely by newly-elected deputy mayor, Ross Bartley.

The region's two main men were officially given their leader titles during yesterday's first council meeting, following the swearing in of the seven other councillors.

Family and friends of the new councillors filed in to council chambers at 9am yesterday to witness the community's elected leaders take their place.

Cr Bartley was the only councillor to be nominated for the position of deputy mayor, with Councillor Denise Ingram throwing Cr Bartley's name into the ring.

It was predicted the job would be taken out by Cr Bartley, or top-of-the-poll councillor Jo McNally.

Cr Ingram said she was pleased to see a regional balance between leaders and it was Cr Bartley's integrity and commitment that prompted her to suggest him for the important role.

"I feel that Ross lives at this end of the region and it is important for mayor and deputy to represent both ends," Cr Ingram said.

"I have never been a supporter of the highest vote.

"This is council and I believe he can do the job well."

The new deputy mayor said he was pleased to move into the leadership role after serving the past three terms as councillor.

"I am looking forward to the challenge that the extra responsibility of the role brings," Cr Bartley said.

"I see it as a role of not only supporting fellow councillors but also providing extra support to the mayor and being his right-hand man.

"I think Cr Blundell and I will work well together and hopefully we can provide all of the wishes of the community members."

Cr Bartley said this was a challenging time for anybody to step into the role of councillor and said he was confident the combined expertise of the new team would help overcome the battles of budget time.

"I will be looking at controlling the debt level and trying to control the rate increases, because these are reasonably hard for rural areas," he said.

Jamie Mackenzie, the only councillor to have never served on one of the region's councils, yesterday called for the smaller communities to play a greater role in council meetings.

He suggested council move away from revolving its monthly meetings around Warwick and Stanthorpe and delving into the wider communities.

Cr Mackenzie suggested a system of revolving full council monthly meetings in each community, with three meetings each in Stanthorpe and Warwick, one each in Allora, Killarney, Yangan, Leyburn, Pratten and Wallangarra.

"Regional councils are different. Instead of one centre and a surrounding district in the old shires, regional councils now consist of a series of large and small communities," he said.

"Many of the small communities need to feel council cares for them, especially after amalgamation."

Problems with such a system were briefly mentioned during yesterdays meeting and included technology, the availability of venues and scheduling deadlines.

The councillors agreed to leave the current system in place, with a review to take place in six months.

Cr Mackenzie also expressed his concern about the council policy that outlined which council staff members the elected councillors could contact with problems and concerns.

He said the restrictions caused him to lose some of his democratic rights.

"No one wants councillors to interfere with day-to-day operations of council business, but this is not Moscow," he said.

Topics:  deputy mayor leader mayor

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