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Mayor to rule with “tough love”

THE new mayor of South Gippsland Shire Council, Cr Don Hill, has promised “tough love” to unite the conflict-riddled council.
He said he would wield a firm hand in the council chamber to ensure minor disputes do not fester into major divisions.
The head maths teacher at Drouin Secondary College said he would enforce discipline in the chamber after two years of internal turmoil that resulted in former councillors Maxine Kiel and Meg Edwards resigning.
“With my teaching experience, the first thing I learnt was that before you can teach, you have to get the discipline right. To me, that means you do not let the little things get away,” Cr Hill said.
He said that meant following correct meeting procedure, mutual respect and proper behaviour. He said since new councillors Jim Fawcett and Rosemary Cousin joined council in the past month, “council has been functioning really well”.
Still, municipal monitor Peter Stephenson – appointed by the Andrews State Government to watch over council amid concerns about it being dysfunctional – continues to sit in at council meetings.
The Star has been told Cr Hill had been involved in many internal council disputes, but his supporters have welcomed his leadership as a chance to pursue their agendas on council.
Cr Hill defeated Cr Aaron Brown by one vote, 5:4, in a second ballot for mayor at last Wednesday’s special council meeting, after a third candidate, Cr Ray Argento, was defeated in the first ballot.
Cr Argento has denied reports that he did a deal with Cr Hill to vote for him, in return for Cr Hill’s support of Cr Argento’s candidature for mayor in 2019.
Cr Argento said he did not intend standing for mayor in 2019 and did not do deals.
“All wards need an opportunity to share a mayor. Don is more than capable of leading the council,” Cr Argento said.
Cr Hill concurred he had had no discussions with Cr Argento about deals in exchange for his vote.
Cr Hill appeared surprised by his mayoral win, saying immediately afterwards, “I’m speechless and also very humble”. He promised to not let councillors and ratepayers down, and said he would be saying less as a mayor than as a councillor.
During his election speech, Cr Argento said he put himself forward “as the safe candidate”, pledged to fast-track council’s work rather than “reset council”, and draw on contacts he established while mayor in 2016-17.
In a polished speech, Cr Brown said “integrity is a critical character trait” for the mayoral role and that he wanted to lead a united team.
His priorities would be finalising the new CEO contract, the Leongatha streetscape, Korumburra Community Hub and the extension of the Great Southern Rail Trail, and advocating for the infrastructure council needed to meet residential growth.
“My vision for South Gippsland Shire is of a place where we build each other up. We need to do better. I want to be someone who extracts the best of everyone, for the betterment of the shire,” he said.
In his election speech, Cr Hill said he would draw on his experience in managing students and staff to implement a no tolerance approach to inappropriate behaviour.
“The mayor needs a firm hand and the desire to be fair and impartial,” he said.
“Rather than an adversial approach to meetings, the mayor should promote a consensus-based approach.”
He wants the mayor to have earlier involvement in budget preparations with council staff rather than have an advanced proposal put to council for consideration.
Cr Hill wants to work on council’s involvement in caravan parks, rates reductions, increased service delivery and driving economic development.
He said the shared services model council was pursuing with other councils to deliver services together could deliver savings of seven percent of rate revenue – $3 million.
Cr Hill has long advocated for lower farm rates, particularly on past council rating strategy committees, and with the rating strategy review now underway by council, said he would support the outcome, regardless of what it may be.
During his speech, Cr Hill said he was not using council as a stepping stone to a political career and had no land management interests.
He will take leave from teaching and said in doing so, his salary would reduce by $50,000 over the next 12 months, “so I’m not doing it for the financial gain”.
From December 1, the mayoral allowance will be $87,175 and the councillor allowance $28,174. Both figures include super.

Fresh team: from left, new South Gippsland Shire Council mayor Don Hill and deputy mayor Cr Alyson Skinner after their election last Wednesday.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=26720

Posted by on Nov 27 2018. Filed under Featured, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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