Let mayoral debate begin

November 09, 2017

City of Greater Shepparton Deputy Mayor Kim O'Keeffe has nominated for the mayoral role, but it is yet to be seen if any other councillors will also put their hand up.

It is perhaps an unfortunate reality that the ratepayers do not get to first hand see the behind-the-scenes discussions leading up to a mayoral election.

What does this involve?

Well, the sounding out of fellow councillors. Plenty of lobbying by interested councillors. And lots of vote counting.

Next week, Greater Shepparton City Council will elect a mayor and deputy mayor.

While currently officially a one-horse race, reading between the lines it appears the current contest to be Shepparton’s mayor from next week is heating up between two key contenders.

And according to reports from councillors, it could be a close finish.

The mayor elected next week may be in the role for the next 12 months. It would not be impossible for it to be a longer term, amid a recent push for mayoral terms to last 24 months.

A side discussion to this remains the question of whether the current setup is attracting the right candidates to be mayor, and whether the position is valued enough among councillors and community leaders.

Or whether the level of remuneration and time commitment remain reasons for others not standing.

But the reality is, it is unlikely the ratepayers watching online, or those sitting in the gallery, will get a clear, completely transparent picture of the election.

As has happened in previous years, it appears plenty of number-crunching and decision-making happens in a backroom discussion prior to the meeting.

Then, the special mayoral election council meeting and the vote has the potential to play out following a script of sorts with only the successful candidate nominating.

What isn’t clear in this picture is which other councillors were interested in nominating for the positions of mayor and deputy mayor, but had in the end not nominated.

What else isn’t clear is which candidate councillors would have supported, were a second candidate to have nominated.

Cr Dennis Patterson this week argued on the need for the process to happen in an open, public meeting in the interests of transparency.

The mayoral role is undoubtedly one of influence. The mayoral allowance is roughly $50000 more annually than the other eight councillors and the role comes with a decisive casting vote on potentially contentious decisions.

But perhaps more importantly, the mayor becomes a face for the council in discussions around lobbying with other tiers of government, and, increasingly, in representing the region’s needs persuasively and effectively.

A unanimous show of public support for the one candidate may present an image of a united council. And this arguably counts for something. But it rarely paints a clear picture of discussions behind the scenes.

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