MRCC deputy Mayor Cr Min Poole and Mayor Cr Simon Clemence. Photo: PAUL MENSCH
By VINNIE RODI
A MILDURA Mayor will serve consecutive terms for the first time in three years following the shock re-election of Cr Simon Clemence on Wednesday night.
Cr Clemence had remained non-committal regarding whether or not he would re-stand as Mayor leading into Wednesday’s Special Council Meeting, with many punters tipping the position would come down to a vote between Crs Jason Modica and Min Poole.
Facing a packed public gallery, Cr Glenn Milne was the first to make a nomination for the Mayor’s position, calling on Cr Clemence to re-stand.
Cr Clemence accepted, was backed by Cr Greg Brown, and promptly defeated a challenge by Cr Modica, who many had tipped to take out the vote prior to the night.
Cr Modica was nominated by Cr Mark Eckel, and backed by Cr Anthony Cirillo.
Cr Clemence won the count five votes to four, with Crs Poole and Gavin Sedgmen also voting in his favour.
Cr Poole, who had voiced a desire to stand for Mayor, was instead elected deputy Mayor following a nomination by Cr Clemence. She defeated Cr Cirillo and Cr Helen Healy in a three-way contest.
Speaking immediately following his re-election, Cr Clemence said his decision to re-stand had been touch and go for the past several months.
“In all honesty it was up and down – I decided to (stand), then I didn’t, then I did,” he said. “At the end of the day I got the support of the majority of Councillors, and the moment that I found that out, and we live in a democracy, I thought, ‘Why not?’
“Cr Gavin Sedgmen came to me a few days ago, and that’s when I knew I had the support, and I almost felt obliged (to stand).
“I didn’t go out and seek, from any Councillor, their support… they came to me. They asked me to be Mayor, and that gave me the incentive to go forward.”
Cr Clemence said that looking back on his first Mayoral term, he felt he had “tackled the big issues” facing the region.
“I’ve tackled the drought, and prior to that the issue around farm workers and farm worker accommodation, and the issue around (Mildura Planning Scheme) Amendment C89,” he said.
“These are issues that I have tackled head-on based on the concerns of our constituents.
“I’ve worked very hard with our State and Federal governments to address these issues, and we’ve made quite a bit of headway.
“Obviously a lot of this is still ongoing, but we certainly have an indication that a lot will go in our favour, while securing drought relief funding, and $20million for the Mildura South Regional Sporting Precinct.
“There’s still $10million needed to complete that project, and we will get that.”
Cr Clemence said that continuing the fight to establish a dedicated residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in the region remained a key goal.
“I’ve been pushing very hard for that… in my previous role (as a Mildura police inspector), I saw the impact (drugs and alcohol) was having in this community in the way of crime and family violence,” he said.
“Unfortunately that (facility) has come to a bit of stalemate, but hopefully in the next 12 months we can kick-start it again.”
Cr Poole, who chose not to stand for the Mayoral position in favour of the deputy Mayor’s role, was adamant the result was in the best interests of the community.
“I was quite keen to stand, but throughout the discussions with our colleagues… and even jumping back through the past 12 months, I have often complemented Cr Clemence on his role (as Mayor),” she said.
“In my three years on Council we’ve had three different mayors, and there hasn’t been that continuity not just for councillors, but for the whole community.
“Through our discussions, it was decided that Cr Clemence serving a second mayoral term was the best result. As a Council we’ve had a lot of changes… even at the State and Federal level, so a bit of stability was important.
“Simply put it wasn’t my turn yet to be Mayor, but I am more than happy to be elected deputy.
“I enter this position without personal agenda, and I bring my regional knowledge and diverse business leadership experiences, along with a general commitment towards improvement (to the role).
“With our current nine councillors, heading into our first full year as a group… coupled with (MRCC) CEO, Sarah (Philpot’s), first year with us, and our experienced managers, we will steer the delivery of over 100 services… while caring about the well-being of our community and our environment to ensure Mildura Rural City Council is future ready.”
Cr Eckel, who nominated Cr Modica for the Mayoral position, said that he had been “taken by surprise” by the result.
“Cr Clemence had said in previous conversations that he was not going to re-stand for Mayor, nor was he going to stand at the next Council election, while Cr Modica has indicated that he intends to continue his public service, and that’s why I nominated him,” he said.
“I have enormous respect for Cr Modica, and you need strength to serve publicly – which he has.”
Cr Eckel was adamant that he had no issue with the process around the Mayor’s election, describing Wednesday’s vote as “transparent.”
Cr Clemence has also been quite open regarding his desire to not seek a second Council term.