New battle for Deputy Mayor

Mayor Peter Maguire
Mayor Peter Maguire

CENTRAL Highlands Mayor Peter Maguire has publicly endorsed long-serving councillor Gail Nixon as his chosen deputy.

In a 24 hours filled with intrigue, council candidate Lester Anderson lost a call for a recount of votes for eighth position, it was revealed current deputy mayor Paul Bell wouldn't contest the position and councillor-elect and former president of CHRC Ratepayers Association Kevin Pickersgill threw his hat into the ring.

"I think Cr Nixon would make a wonderful deputy mayor," Cr Maguire, who stood unopposed as mayor in the April 28 election, said.

"She has a lot of experience in local government, is a former chair of the Bauhinia Shire and obviously is very popular.

"Knowing Gail is willing to put in the time, and she has for the last four years, she would be excellent in the role."

Mr Pickersgill said he had the necessary credentials to be deputy mayor and was capable of forging a good working relationship with Cr Maguire.

"I'm a strong person and I have excellent people and negotiating skills I have acquired over the years which I think are really needed in that position," Mr Pickersgill said.

"I think it's fair to the people we have a mayor in Emerald but are represented regionally with a deputy.

"I am aware Gail has put her hand up and I regard her as a friend… but I do feel the deputy mayor is a very important role and we need a strong person in there."

The 2012 election, which saw sitting councillors Ross Rolfe, Peter Haylock, Kerry Hayes and Patty Schwarz ousted, has been criticised for a low voter turnout and confusion over the postal ballot system.

Finding himself in a position much like a MasterChef contestant confronted by the mystery box challenge, Cr Maguire faces the prospect of six new councillors in chambers and a test for all concerned to create a palatable outcome.

Yet to unfold is the way in which the newly elected councillors who campaigned under the Ratepayers Association banner will vote on council matters.

Cr Maguire could face a divided council.

"Everyone is intelligent enough to know they were elected to be independent, I would hope," he said.

"Personally I have never liked the idea of teams having control of a local government.

"My expectation is everyone will make decision on the information to hand with their independent views."

The loss of the majority of the 2008-elected councillors had hit hard, Cr Maguire admitted.

"We have lost some good, hardworking people," he said.

"I'm going to miss them all."

"Everyone is intelligent enough to know they were elected to be independent, I would hope." CHRC Mayor Peter Maguire


Recount request denied by commissioner

AS OF 5pm on Wednesday, the results of the Central Highlands Local Government Election were finalised, but not without their fair share of drama.

Earlier in the day, candidate Lester Anderson, who polled ninth overall, submitted a request for a re-count, having just missed on out the eighth councillor position by 26 votes to fellow Blackwater candidate Kev Cracknell.

Hours later he received a letter from Electoral Commissioner David Kerslake informing him his request had been denied.

The difference between eighth and ninth was just .002%.

The commissioner cited the need for "firm ground" for directing a recount, which he proceeded to tell Mr Anderson he did not have due to the "methodical nature and continuous balancing of the count".

"How close does it have to be to justify a recount?" Mr Anderson said in response, after he lodged an appeal of the commissioner's decision.

"I had faith in the way the votes were counted, but 26 out of 80,000 isn't much at all."

Mr Anderson used the opportunity to attack the 100% postal vote method, after it emerged hundreds of voters threw out or did not receive their ballot papers last week.

"I urge everyone to write Vaughan Johnson and the Minister for Local Government to voice their concerns over the way this thing was run," he said. 

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