THE TOP TEAM: Newly-elected Mildura Mayor, Cr Simon Clemence, centre, with his deputy, Cr Jason Modica, left, and MRCC CEO Gerard Jose.

By VINNIE RODI

NEW Mildura Rural City Council Mayor Simon Clemence has made a strong promise on his first night in the top job, vowing that he will do everything in his power to better the region, while also vowing to not let the people of Mildura down.

“I give you this promise; I will do everything I can, and work as hard as I can for the next 12 months, to do everything possible to make this community the best place it can be,” he said following Wednesday’s vote.

Cr Clemence was overwhelmingly elected to the mayoral post six votes to two, easily seeing off a challenge from Cr Min Poole.

Cr Jason Modica will serve as Deputy Mayor, after also defeating Cr Poole five votes to three. Both Cr Clemence and Cr Modica will serve in their respective roles for the next 12 months.

“I was pleasantly surprised (to win by such a large margin),” Cr Clemence, 63, said. “I made my decision to put my hand up a long time ago, but I obviously didn’t want to say anything until I knew I had the numbers, and I’ve been doing some lobbying in the meantime to get those numbers…”

In his first speech as Mayor, Cr Clemence thanked his fellow Councillors for “bestowing on me the honour of being elected Mayor.”

“To the people of Mildura… I am greatly honoured that you gave me the opportunity to serve you as a Councillor… and now I have the opportunity to be Mayor, I guarantee you that I will not let you down,” he said.

“In my time (on Council) I have been so impressed with the nature and quality of MRCC staff, and I regard them as highly professional and hard-working. Most of what they do is done for the betterment of this community, and I am a little bit saddened that they don’t get the recognition that they deserve…”

Cr Clemence said he would continue to champion the community’s work to obtain drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities in the area.

“I think this is sorely needed,” he said. “I know I have the support of Council and the Northern Mallee Community Partnership, and I will also continue to chair the Local Drug Action committee.

“I’ve been trying to get a rehab centre here for quite some time. We’re working very hard on strategies to get the government to look at this area as one they should be supporting in drug rehab and drug detox.

“It’s an uphill battle… We have a strong business case, and we’ll be going back to government, and we won’t take no for an answer.”

Cr Clemence also spoke of his dedication to Council’s landmark Mildura Future Ready (MFR) strategy.

“In relation to Mildura Future Ready, I can promise you that I will move, as a team with everyone else on Council and my fellow Councillors, to capitalise on every opportunity to champion that project,” he said.

“This is not a short-term project, MFR has a lifespan of five to 10 years, possibly even longer. This project has already kicked some goals, and we have a long way to go.

“From this point onwards we’re going to work very hard to get some support for that project. It might not come in one hit… we’ll basically work our way through the numbers until we get what we want.”

Cr Clemence said that rates will also be a big issue over the next 12 months.

“Our dryland farmers and our irrigated horticultural farmers have had significant rises in the last round, and I was quite concerned about that,” he said.

“I didn’t vote the budget down on that basis, but I have been working, as has the rest of Council, within the rating strategy meetings to try and see if we can provide some relief to those farmers, and see if we can come up with a system, theory or management tool that will provide them some relief from hard spikes.”

Cr Clemence referred to Mildura as “a boom town,” saying the development planned in the region over the next few years would take residents by surprise.

“Building applications and approvals are up some 50 percent… and some of those projects are quite large,” he said. “The town is doing very well, and thanks to some very good work on the part of Mildura Regional Development… they are working very hard to capitalise on that boom, and to drive some projects forward – especially in the agtech space.”

Cr Clemence also paid tribute to outgoing Mayor Cr Mark Eckel, who did not seek re-election, thanking him for his advocacy and leadership over the past 12 months, especially in progressing the work done on Mildura Future Ready.

“All of us together, Councillors, Council proper and the community, are Team Mildura, I’m not concerned about the naysayers and the people on Facebook who look to attack us at every given turn, we are Team Mildura all of us together,” he said.

“We are all going to work together to drive this community forward, and we’re going to make this the best place it can possibly be.”

• FOOTNOTE: Visit digital.milduraweekly.com.au to hear the Mildura Weekly and ABC Radio’s interview with Mildura Mayor Simon Clemence after Wednesday night’s meeting.