Seven of the valley’s nine councillors elected Jim Simmons to the mayoral role for the next two years at their inaugural meeting last Tuesday, September 27.
The position was contested by one other councillor, Karen Toms, who was supported by Cr Debrah Novak.
Each of the other councillors, Peter Ellem, Arthur Lysaught, Richie Williamson, Andrew Baker, Jason Kingsley and Greg Clancy voted for Cr Simmons.
The general manager seemed to be surprised that no other councillor nominated for the position, calling for further nominations several times.
There had been an expectation that Cr Baker would make a run for the leadership, however, he told the Independent that he had ascertained that “he didn’t have the numbers”.
Jason Kingsley, Karen Toms and Greg Clancy contested the deputy mayor position.
Cr Kingsley won the day, receiving the votes of councillors Williamson, Baker, Simmons and Lysaught.
Councillor Novak supported Cr Toms and Peter Ellem supported Greg Clancy.
The mayor and deputy were elected to two-year terms by a show of hands (open vote), unlike those of the past, which were conducted by ballot.
Commenting after his success, Cr Simmons said he intended to improve the council’s “communication with the residents”.
“I think that’s a big thing, I’m sure we agree, [that] we have to improve on,” he told his fellow councillors.
He congratulated Cr Kingsley on his appointment as deputy mayor and acknowledged the three outgoing councillors, Margaret McKenna, Sue Hughes and Craig Howe.
“They have all worked hard for Clarence Valley residents over the past eight years,” he said.
He said former mayor Richie Williamson put in an “incredible effort over eight years as mayor” and acknowledged his “proud record” as the chair of the Pacific Highway Taskforce and his efforts to prevent the closure of the Grafton gaol.
“I thought at one stage we were going to be run over,” he said.
“Richie always [brought] some degree of control over us all.”
He welcomed the three new councillors – Novak, Ellem and Clancy – to the fold and invited other councillors to speak.
Deputy mayor Jason Kingsley acknowledged the work of outgoing councillors and Cr Williamson’s contribution as mayor.
“You certainly added a lot of value to the community [and] I know you are held in high regard,” he said.
Councillor Williamson congratulated the mayor, “on being elected to lead the council for the next two years.
“It is a great privilege,” he said. “Today must be a very proud day for you and [your wife] Lexie … we are in good hands with your election.
“Councillor Kingsley; congratulations on your election to the position of deputy mayor; it is an important role.
“I see our future to be very bright and our immediate future in a very safe and stable pair of hands, in both you Mr Mayor and Mr Deputy Mayor.”
As for mayor Simmons’ pre-election promises; he said he and councillors Baker and Toms had “consistently voted against” previous special rate variation proposals (SRV) and that “we don’t need a 41 per cent rate increase” – 5.44 per cent (inclusive of assumed rate peg of 2.5 per cent) over each of seven years from 2017/18 to 2013/24, permanently built into the rate base –, which is due to be tabled at the October 18 council meeting in Grafton.
“Council cannot continue to operate on grant and loan funding for new capital works projects and ignore maintenance to existing assets,” he wrote in his pre-election profile.
“That situation has been obvious and I have continually voted against adoption of council’s budget and operational plan.
“Better financial management and a stop to general fund borrowing is what we do need.
“I have also not supported nor will I support closure of Ulmarra swimming pool.”
Councillors Simmons, Clancy, Baker, Williamson and Ellem were installed as the environment planning and community committee.
Councillors Simmons, Lysaught, Toms, Kingsley and Novak are the corporate governance and works committee’s members.
The committees meet on Tuesday October 11.