Mayoral candidates yet to emerge

A week out from this year’s mayoral election, Latrobe City councillors are keeping their cards close to their chest.

Just five of the nine councillors responded to The Express about their intentions for the 11 November vote, with only Cr Kellie O’Callaghan revealing she would consider nominating.

In endorsing Cr O’Callaghan, Cr Christine Sindt launched a scathing attack on sitting mayor Sandy Kam and deputy Sharon Gibson, describing them as “renegade leaders who disappear for weeks on end”.

“It has been disappointing that between them they have been absent from council for a total of 13 weeks,” Cr Sindt said.

“That’s one quarter of the year, when either one or the other has been absent for ‘family business reasons’ and a five-week European holiday.

“This does not include the month of January when there were no council meetings.”

Councillors serve a four-year term, but they elect a mayor each year.

Historically, mayors are not voted in two years in a row, but sitting mayor Kam and deputy Gibson could again nominate for their existing positions.

“At this stage, Cr Kellie O’Callaghan looks like a safe bet for mayor,” Cr Sindt said.

“She’s hard-working, intelligent, committed to her role, and gets on well with everyone. She would also be a good choice in helping to mend bridges with council officers following the rash implementation of the procurement policy.”

Cr O’Callaghan said council’s first year had been “extremely difficult”.

“We must have a mayor that will ensure effective leadership, promoting positive relationships with a broad range of stakeholders including our community and all levels of government and who will apply and actively encourage the principles and practices of good governance,” she said.

Cr O’Callaghan said in the absence of a mayoral candidate with “demonstrated leadership skills and experience in these areas” she would consider nominating.

Council stalwart and three-time mayor Darrell White ruled out standing this year.

“There’s too much on my list to take on the big job,” Cr White said.

“Every year into the life of the council, there will always be an ongoing array of difficult challenges that have to be addressed and it does require strong leadership and being able to create a culture where councillors are able to not only work together, but also be able to understand the messages we convey and how those messages are received by the huge organisation we’re a part of.”

Cr Dale Harriman said on Thursday he “had not thought about it yet”, while Cr Gibson said the mayoral election was not her main focus at this point in time as the result of family issues.

“There are some good councillors out there that would make very good mayors,” Cr Gibson said.

“On the night it depends who puts their hand up as to how I will vote.”

Crs Kam, Michael Rossiter, Graeme Middlemiss and Peter Gibbons did not respond to The Express.

The mayoral vote will be conducted at 5.30pm on Monday, 11 November at council’s Commercial Road, Morwell headquarters.

The public is welcome to attend.