Mayoral race down to Marg or Matt

Sharon Kemp | Bendigo Weekly | 13-Oct-2017

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THE City of Greater Bendigo mayoral contest shapes as a two-way battle, with the city’s next leader set to be chosen on Monday.

Eppalock ward councillor Margaret O’Rourke will make Bendigo council history if she is voted in next week to wear the mayoral robes for back-to-back terms.

But she faces competition from Lockwood ward councillor Matt Emond, who like Cr O’Rourke, is in his first stint on council.

Bendigo has a tradition of  electing a new mayor every year but two former councillors have weighed in to speculation before the vote to suggest there may be little reason to change mayors at all.

Wayne Gregson and Barry Lyons challenged the notion of sharing the role if the incumbent mayor was performing well.

Mr Gregson described the tradition as a potential waste of skills.

“If you get a person who is doing well in one year and they are really starting to hit their potential in the last part of the year, then why should they change?” Mr Gregson said.

“I don’t know the intention of any other candidates, but I think that (Cr O’Rourke) has been a really good mayor.

“I think she has had a really sharp learning curve in that she was mayor in her first year as a councillor, which I would say is a hard ask.”

Mr Lyons said commitments such as Regional Cities Victoria which were the responsibility of the mayor, took at least two meetings to build up knowledge about.

He nominated for consecutive terms as mayor four years ago and was defeated by the vote.

Mr Lyons said the benefit was continuity and Mr Gregson said sharing the role could lead to less than creative outcomes.

“I am not going to go into names but there has been some mayors in my time in Bendigo when you think, how did they get there,” Mr Gregson said.

“If they are a product of this philosophy that you have got to have a different one every year, then maybe you shouldn’t.

“If you think about it, the way the councillors are appointed to the various boards and committees in the community, they don’t have to change every year.

“For example you could get someone on the art gallery board who can stay there for four years and it gives them a chance to build up a bit of background knowledge in that portfolio and to perhaps become more useful board members as well.”

Constituents can expect to find out early next week who will fill the role in 2018.

Councillors are expected to vote for nominees on Monday and Cr O’Rourke will chair her last ordinary meeting next Wednesday if she is overlooked. 

Her successor will be officially installed before the November 15 meeting.

Cr O’Rourke has confirmed her intention to renominate, saying she would be honoured to serve again as mayor.

Cr Emond was contacted for comment. 

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