Kevin joins race for council

By Simon Ruppert

The latest person to enter the race for Benalla Rural City Council is Tatong's Kevin Smith.

Ensign readers might remember Kevin from an article we ran earlier this year when he had an authentic Melbourne tram delivered to his property.

We spoke with Kevin on Monday to see why he wants to run and what he plans to do if elected.

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Have you been on a local council - or similar group before? And if so, how will that experience help you in council

I have not nominated for any council before at all.

I believe that this situation frees me from any preconceived ideas in relation to council.

I have been on many committees in many positions in the Tatong District and I am well experienced in the protocols and behaviours expected in the holding of public meetings.

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One of the basic rules in public meetings is that the meeting adhere to proper guidelines and that all attendees have a right to speak and a right to be listened to professionally and properly.

I believe that courtesy and common sense is the fundamental key to the proper conduct of public meetings especially council meetings.

There are four qualities that I believe will stand me in good stead as an elected councillor.

Respect, impartiality, transparency, and accountability are fundamental keystones that I will exercise as a councillor for the ratepayers of Benalla and district.

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All persons residing in Benalla and district should be treated with respect and dignity.

Impartiality ensures that decisions are made fairly and with the best interests of all concerned parties.

Communication between all parties is extremely important during meetings.

I believe that all actions by elected councillors should be transparent and open to public scrutiny at all times and that decisions made by councillors should be accountable to the ratepayers of Benalla and district.

Councillors are, after all, elected ratepayers and I will keep this awareness before me at all times.

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Tell me a bit about yourself for those in town who might not know you.

I have lived at Tatong on the family farm for about 30 years, although the farm Riverview has been in the family for about 115 years.

I grew up on the farm in north-central Victoria as a child.

I am well acquainted with the unique and special dynamics of rural living amid drought and climate change smattered with some good years.

I have seen the demise of vibrant country rural communities into virtual ghost towns and the associated loss of social and financial benefits to rural communities.

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I realised that a job was essential to realise any dreams and ambitions.

After leaving school I was a qualified clerk of courts (now court registrar) and worked in the Supreme, County, Magistrates and Coroners courts in Victoria in city, metro and country locations.

I was a member of Victoria Police for about 31 years and resigned from that position last year after working primarily in Benalla and Wangaratta.

I am employed at a major retail store in Benalla.

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I am an avid collector of Holden vehicles and have a large number of vehicles in my collection.

Climate control and land management are special interests to me as well as preservation and awareness of First Nations people and cultural significance in this area particularly.

I am also interested in preservation of local history

I am interested in the promotion and safeguard of diverse lifestyles and the associated freedoms for persons to live their lives as they chose to live it without undue scrutiny and interference

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What policies/programs/initiatives etc would you like to work towards in the next four years if you are elected?

I think a councillor should be able to identify trends that can work towards making Benalla and district a vibrant and more inclusive place to live.

Benalla Rural City Council is a broad area, which includes diverse topography, townships.

A recognition that funds need to be allocated to perform essential services in Benalla city and the outlying townships.

Towns also need maintenance, construction of footpaths, leave removal, drainage issues etc to be undertaken.

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Active programs that promote youth to stay in Benalla and district, to find suitable employment here and to not be disadvantaged by remote living.

Programs that extend aged care to promote older residents to be able to stay in their homes and receive adequate care and attention and support.

Policies that identify that as lifestyles change that Benalla and district residents are best equipped to take advantage of new and emerging trends and technologies.

Transport updates to ensure that there is more public transport available in Benalla and also the district.

Programs that promote awareness of diverse lifestyles in Benalla and district and that awareness and promotion is not stifled and hidden or ignored.

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What has been your opinion of the current council/councillors during their time on council?

The past four years have been very challenging and there have been new issues that have not had to be dealt with before.

This was particularly demonstrated in the unparalleled fire season and the COVID-19 pandemic issue.

I think that community consultation and active listening to the relevant stakeholders in every situation is the key that should have been applied.

This would have allayed fears from some sections of the community that their issues were not even regarded by the councillors and that the council meeting was just a mere perfunctory with the final decision already reached prior to the meeting.

I believe that new councillors with a fresh and new approach will inject fresh dynamism into Benalla Rural City Council.

Change brings new ways of resolving issues and together we can all promote Benalla and District as a beautiful place for us all to live.

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Do you have anything you would like to add?

My aim would be to assist all persons living in Benalla and District and to offer support and assistance in their projects.

To listen intently, evaluate fairly, and to be a person offering sound advice would be my goal.

My intention is to make Benalla and district an attractive and viable place to live and I would do all in my power to realise this.

You may have noticed that I have always included district in Benalla and district.

If you would like to send a letter to the editor on this, or any subject, click this link

This is because I firmly believe that outlying townships deserve and demand that they feel they are not ignored or forgotten and that the wealth of these districts is acknowledged and appreciated.