ONE of the worst kept secrets in local politics is out – but the story behind it is as big as the announcement itself.
Former State Member for Port Macquarie, Peter Besseling, will contest the September Local Government elections and has declared his intention solely for the mayoral ballot.
Mr Besseling said after his 2011 defeat in the State election, he “wasn’t necessarily looking at staying in politics”.
But an approach from local businessman and Nationals stalwart, Jim Pearson Snr, may have tipped the ex-NSW Waratahs rugby union star back into the political spotlight.
“He has leadership, authority and political nouse, so I approached him because I want to see the best possible people in Local Government because they have more to do with us than any other level of government,” Mr Pearson said.
As well as the backing from Mr Pearson, Mr Besseling, 42, said there were two other moments that crystalised his ambitions.
“I think the exact moment that I really started thinking about it again was at a barbecue of a friend. He asked me if I was going to run again,” Mr Besseling said.
The conversation then went on: Besseling: “I don’t know, I wasn’t planning on it.”
Friend: “Did you like what you were doing?” Besseling: “Yes, I loved it”.
Friend: “Why don’t you stay at it?”
“I really couldn’t give him an answer and that got me thinking,” Mr Besseling said.
Getting approval of family was the next step and he was surprised when wife Meaghan said: “If this is what you really want to do, I’ll support you.”
The same message came from his two teenage children, Zara and Kase.
Mr Besseling said he didn’t know whether any backlash from his 2011 State election defeat would transfer into the mayoral arena.
“There’s an opportunity here and I can either sit back and watch what goes on and possibly criticise, or suggest ways I can do things better – or, I can get involved,” he said.
“I have had experience as a local MP, I do have those contacts, and I have experience and contacts in the Federal Parliamentary system.
“This actually excites me ... this is an opportunity to help shape the culture and make it a `can- do’ council.” Mr Besseling has tendered his resignation and will end his association on the staff of Lyne MP, Robert Oakeshott, on about August 3 – more than a month before the council elections.
“That’s why I am resigning, so there is no conflict [of interest]. I can’t just leave with so many balls up in the air – I am working on constituent issues.”
He also says that the heartache of the State election loss is long gone.
“I moved on from that, there’s no point crying over spilt milk – I put my hand up, I stood for re-election and didn’t get re-elected and that’s the way things happen. I still think that I have a lot to contribute and I plan to use the skills that I have gathered over the past six years and put that to good use for the community.”
If successful, he already has plans to offset the intensity of public life.
“I plan on getting a bit fitter, I’ll get out there on the ski and keep paddling. I am also learning the trumpet – there are so many things I want to do and now I’ve stated this publicly I better keep working at it,” he said.