Tweed Cr Barry Longland’s three-year term as mayor looks set to end next week, with one of his factional colleagues challenging for the role.
Cr Gary Bagnall says he’ll nominate for the top job which he claims the progressive faction had agreed to share when it won a slim majority at the 2012 council election.
Cr Bagnall, elected that year, says he has the support of his other faction members, deputy mayor Michael Armstrong (Labor) and Cr Katie Milne (Greens), for the ballot at the next council meeting on Thursday 18 September.
Veteran National Party Cr Warren Polglase, a former mayor, is again expected to nominate for the job, making it a three-cornered contest.
Cr Polglase is again set to be backed by his two conservative allies, Crs Phil Youngblutt and Carolyn Byrne.
This would put Cr Longland in the kingmaker’s role, as his vote in a 3-3 split between Crs Bagnall and Polglase would be decisive.
Cr Longland has refused to comment on the issue, telling Echonetdaily he would ‘wait for that time’ and that he knew the issue was being discussed ‘by others’ already.
Both Crs Bagnall and Longland are independent and unaligned to any political party. In council they vote the same way on many major issues.
But a source close to the progressive faction told Echonetdaily that ‘Barry has never really been a part of that faction, he declared himself proud to be middle of the road and just hangs out with them because they’re nicer’.
The mayors of Byron, Ballina, Lismore and Richmond Valley are elected by ratepayers in a popular vote for a four-year term, while Tweed and Kyogle councillors vote for the mayor every 12 months.
Cr Longland would not be drawn on whether Tweed Council should have a popularly elected mayor for four years, saying it was odd that ‘the largest and smallest councils in the region’ were the only ones where councillors elected the mayor each year.
The Tweed mayoralty job comes with a $50,000-plus salary package, while councillors are paid around $15,000 a year.
Cr Bagnall told Echonetdaily he wanted to be mayor during his four-year appointment as a councillor ‘at least once’.
When first elected, the Murwillumbah cafe owner was tipped by some as the dark horse to win the coveted position in his first year as a councillor.
He said it was not unusual for a councillor with only two years experience in the job to be elected mayor.
‘Other councillors have been elected to the position of mayor immediately after general elections and I have now been a councillor for two years and have learned much in that time,’ Cr Bagnall said.
‘I wanted to get a bit of experience first and so I supported Cr Longland on the provision that he would support me for at least one year of the four.’
He said he was ‘a keen negotiator and will strive to secure more income for our shire’.
‘Locals know that I am committed to giving my best to the community, they also know of my commitment to protecting our natural assets and promoting sustainable outcomes,’ Cr Bagnall said.
Cr Longland was elected to council six years ago, serving as deputy mayor for two terms before being elected mayor in September 2011, surprisingly with the support of the National Party’s Cr Youngblutt, who in turn was elected deputy mayor with Cr Longland’s support.
When the new seven-member council was elected in 2012 with a slight majority for the progressives, Cr Longland was re-elected to the job by Crs Bagnall, Milne and Armstrong, with Cr Armstrong elected deputy mayor.
Cr Longland, an accountant and retired federal government auditor, was president of the Uki Village and District Residents Association for several years before entering local politics.