Photo and story Luis Feliu
Lobbying for the Tweed mayoralty by two of the major contenders continues in earnest after the poll for seven Tweed Shire councillors for the next four years was declared on Friday night.
An extraordinary meeting of council will be held this Thursday at 6pm for the crucial ballot to determine who will wear the mayoral robes for the next 12 months.
The seven councillors elected after preference distribution of votes from last Saturday’s election were: Warren Polglase, Katie Milne, Michael Armstrong, Barry Longland, Gary Bagnall, Carolyn Byrne and Phil Youngblutt.
Mr Armstrong, Mr Bagnall and Mrs Byrne are the new faces of this council.
Incumbent mayor Cr Longland and veteran conservative Cr Polglase have both put their hands up for the job.
Cr Longland is part of the community/Greens/Labor bloc which managed to win a slim majority of four seats, while Cr Polglase and his National Party colleague Cr Youngblutt, along with first-time candidate, Mrs Byrne, a Kingscliff-based solicitor, make up the conservative alliance.
Both alliances were revealed before the poll with the tight preference swap deals between candidates.
Speculation is rife as to who will get the numbers on Thursday to become mayor. Cr Polglase needs one of the opposing camp to jump ship for him to get the gong, while Cr Longland is widely tipped to get the support from his bloc to continue in the role.
Cr Longland said he would like to continue in the leadership to maintain stability in council, while Cr Polglase, who has served several terms as mayor in the past 12 years, said the 7,000-plus first-preference votes he received this time around (topping the poll) was a ringing endorsement of support for him.
One of the new faces being courted by both is Murwillumbah cafe owner Gary Bagnall.
Mr Bagnall kept his cards close to his chest on who he would vote for when responding to media questions soon after the poll was declared.
‘I’d like to see someone in that role who can keep the peace and act in the best interests of the whole community and have respect for all sides, someone who can step up and relate to every person and show respect for both Cr Katie Milne and Warren Polglase,’ he said.
Asked if he would nominate for mayor, Mr Bagnall said, ‘not at this stage, unless the right person doesn’t stand up,’ adding he hoped this council ‘can work better than the previous one, which some say was divided’.
Both progressive and conservative candidates said they felt the new council was workable and could work as a team.
Mrs Byrne told Echonetdaily it a was a ‘fairly balanced makeup’ and she hoped that once councillors stepped into the chambers together, they would ‘put party politics behind them and do what’s best for the Tweed’.
Mr Armstrong agreed, saying he wanted to see council working in with the community and he would look at ways to better ‘engage with the community to find solutions to issues facing all of us’.
The mayor’s job comes with a salary of around $50,000 a year plus expenses, while councillors are only paid around $15,000 plus expenses.
At this Thursday’s meeting, councillors will also elect the deputy mayor and determine dates and times of future council meetings.
The final preference distribution last Friday took only moments as new technology enables a much faster vote count. It took 55 (computerised) counts to finally select all seven councillors, which, in previous elections took weeks to decide manually.
Once Tweed Shire returning officer Len Sparreboom got the word from the NSW Electoral Commission in Sydney, he pressed a button on a linked computer to initiate the process, completing it in under a minute.
For more information on the election result, visit the NSW Electoral Commission’s website www.votensw.info.
It was wrongly reported in Echonetdaily last week that Byron/Ballina shires’ returning officer Ian Smith said the new technology did away with the need for scrutineers. It does not, as scrutineers can still observe the process and get involved in reconciliation of disputed votes.
with pic: Incumbent mayor Barry Longland, right, his partner Jyoti Windshuttle, and candidate Gary Bagnall are fixated on the NSW Electoral Office’s computer screen at the Tweed Shire returning office in Tweed Heads on Friday for the preference distribution count that decided the council makeup.