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Byron Shire
July 30, 2021

New Tweed mayor keen to give his best ‘as a team’

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New Tweed mayor Gary Bagnall after his election last night. Photo Maleika Halpin
New Tweed mayor Gary Bagnall after his election last night. Photo Maleika Halpin

Luis Feliu

Tweed shire has a new mayor and deputy mayor, with Cr Gary Bagnall elected to the top role for the next 12 months after an extraordinary meeting last night.

The surprise election of both Cr Bagnall for mayor and conservative Cr Phil Youngblutt for deputy came after Cr Barry Longland, who had been mayor for the past three years, did not nominate for mayor and also gave his decisive vote to Cr Youngblutt to replace Cr Michael Armstrong as deputy.

Both mayor and deputy were elected in a 4-3 vote. Veteran Cr Warren Polglase, also a former mayor, nominated for the role again but missed out after Cr Longland stuck with the progressive faction to vote for Cr Bagnall, who had challenged him.

A group of onlookers in the pubic gallery cheered when it was clear Cr Bagnall had the former mayor’s crucial support for the job in the show-of-hands vote.

But Cr Longland then surprised his own colleagues by voting with the National Party bloc (Crs Polglase, Youngblutt and Carolyn Byrne) for Cr Youngblutt as deputy.

This is Cr Bagnall’s first term as mayor after being elected as a councillor in 2012.

The Murwillumbah cafe owner serves on several community boards and committees and has an extensive background in youth work and management of community organisations focusing on helping the disadvantaged.

The vote for mayoralty was preceded by a row among the majority progressive faction sparked by Cr Longland backing away from an agreement he made with factional colleagues to share the job over the four-year life of the current council.

The refusal to honour the so-called deal led to a challenge by Cr Bagnall, reminiscent of the famous ‘Kirribili agreement’ between former prime minister Bob Hawke and his deputy Paul Keating 25 years ago. (Mr Hawke broke the confidential agreement for a behind-the-scenes handover of power after a set term, sparking a challenge by Mr Keating who then won the leadership.)

But this morning (Friday), Cr Longland denied he’d been part of a deal to hand over the reins of power, telling the ABC he felt he didn’t have support for his nomination from fellow councillors so did not put his hand up.

After his election mayor Bagnall thanked his fellow councillors for supporting him, saying he hoped ‘to live up to all expectations’.

‘I am excited to work with the team of seven councillors, and we are a team. The things we debate are a reflection of the community and it is quite healthy,’ he said.

Cr Bagnall said he was ‘a person of vision, drive and enthusiasm’ who always gave his best to the community and would continue to do that, but ‘with greater vigour’.

Cr Youngblutt said he  was happy to work with Cr Bagnall despite not agreeing with him every time ‘but that’s healthy debate in a democratic process’.

He also noted that both the new mayor and deputy came from the ‘top end’ of the Tweed (Murwillumbah area).

But not everyone was happy with that result.

Cr Armstrong later told Echonetdaily he was ‘disappointed’ that Cr Longland did not support him as deputy.

He took a swipe at Cr Longland for ‘giving his support to a member of the National Party for deputy mayor, a councillor who has consistently supported the over-development of the Tweed and who has described Tweed voters as morons’.

Cr Bagnall told reporters outside the chamber after his election that he would be able to juggle his role as a mayor and owner of a business.

‘I do have the luxury of employing over 20 people so we can pull people in when we need to,’ he said.

Cr Bagnall’s wife Linley said her husband would make a good mayor because ‘his heart’s in the right place’ and he ‘cares about the average person’.

‘I see him as a bit of a visionary so he may shake things up a bit little,’ she said.

The couple have two boys aged 13 and 17.

Cr Bagnall’s support in the 4-3 vote came from Crs Longland, Armstrong, Katie Milne, and his own vote, while Cr Youngblutt was backed by Crs Longland, Polglase, Byrne and his own vote. Cr Armstrong had also nominated for the deputy role and his three votes came from Crs Bagnall, Milne and his own vote.

 

New Tweed mayor Gary Bagnall and his wife Linley after his election last night. Photo Maleika Halpin
New Tweed mayor Gary Bagnall and his wife Linley after his election last night. Photo Maleika Halpin

New Tweed mayor Gary Bagnall, right, with new deputy mayor Phil Youngblutt outside council chambers. Photo Maleika Halpin
New Tweed mayor Gary Bagnall, right, with new deputy mayor Phil Youngblutt outside council chambers. Photo Maleika Halpin


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8 COMMENTS

  1. How petulant of Cr Sourgrapes Longland to vote for Cr Youngblutt as Deputy Mayor. Just goes to show how murky and self-serving his true colours are.

  2. Well, Michael Amstrong was deputy mayor and it is usual that deputies have a feel for the job and learn as a deputy and then step forward when it is time for them in top job.
    Yes it is a surprise. Michael Armstrong should have a turn sometime as mayor.

  3. Vision, drive and enthusiasm (Gary’s description of himself) is very apt I’d say. I look fwd to more of the innovative, caring (for the environment, townscape, youth, etc.), thoughtful and persistent approach that he has demonstrated in the Motions that he has put up as a Councillor. Tweed Shire will certainly be a better place for his input, along with the team of councillors which is nice to see Gary acknowledge.

    I agree, what a shame Barry did not support Michael for a second year as Deputy to put him in a good position for a future term as Mayor some time. He has contributed in a valuable way from what I have seen. It does seem sourgrapes, but perhaps also interestingly a decision to spread the deputy position across the ‘factions?’ or favours owed? who knows. But I was heartened to hear Gary and Phil speaking about working together in a collaborative way – let’s hope that actually works.

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