IT is a rewarding job where you can make a tangible difference to people and your community.
That is the shared experience of Port Macquarie-Hastings councillors who are about to end their term in local government as the region prepares to enter the campaign phase for the September 4 elections and the possibility of a few new faces.
Potential candidates can register from July 26 when nominations open. Final nominations close on August 4.
Councillors are calling on local residents of all ages and all backgrounds to consider stepping up and serving the Port Macquarie-Hastings community.
Mayor Peta Pinson said her journey on council, and as the first woman elected mayor in the region, has been one of the hardest but most rewarding jobs of her life.
Cr Pinson will contest the September 4 election on a group ticket with Sharon Griffiths, Danielle Maltman and Adam Roberts.
Also registered is a group ticket for the Greens including candidates Lauren Edwards, Stuart Watson, Les Mitchell and Drusi Megget.
"Individually for anyone standing on council, it is such an opportunity for personal growth. If you are a life long learner, which I am, you learn a little about a lot and with that knowledge you're in a position to make decisions as an elected body and make a difference to people's lives in our region," Cr Pinson said.
Cr Pinson has never agreed with governing along political party lines at a local government level, nor has she been a 'yes' person, she says.
"I've been a person who has been 100 per cent about serving the community and not just in the chamber - it's also at events and in our community on the street. I would say to prospective councillors that's the most rewarding thing."
Cr Pinson said the role does come with its challenges, but says standing by her community through incredible adversity over the last three years is her greatest achievement.
When you are immersed out in the community you actually see the most incredible people, who have done the most incredible things. Resilience is an over-stated word. It think true grit is what our community has.Mayor Peta Pinson
"I've been very public in my learning of the role. People have been able to see me grow into it," she said.
"People will let you know what they are dissatisfied with. You have to be prepared for that. You are accessible the minute you walk out the door."
She would like to see more young people and women earn a place and have a voice on council, and for the council to reflect a more diverse cross-section of the Port Macquarie-Hastings community.
"It's for three years (a young person) will have the most amazing time of their life and be able to look back with pride to say they were responsible for helping make decisions for their community.
"I can't stress enough how amazing a journey it is and how exciting it will be for people new to council. We need a champion team, not a team of champions.
"I've stood shoulder with our community through some of the most challenging years our history has ever seen. I'm in awe of our community.
"When you are immersed out in the community you actually see the most incredible people, who have done the most incredible things. Resilience is an over-stated word. It think true grit is what our community has."
Deputy mayor Lisa Intemann is a local government stalwart committing almost 21 years to grassroots decision-making. She has been elected five times, and served under five different mayors.
She will run again on the ballot for councillor and also place herself in the running for mayor.
"I'm drawn to council because it's hugely important, always something new, and deals with such a vast scope of issues from long term strategic planning, down to the detail involved in good communication with others," Cr Intemann said.
"It's the most uplifting experience to work with conscientious others toward great community goals and decisions. I love that."
Cr Intemann said there's no place for political ego when representing your community.
"Primarily, just be interested and care - engage one's brain, consult and listen, digest facts and options, weigh consequences and try, always try, for the best outcomes on issues much bigger than oneself," she said.
"If you hanker to get in the ring and actually work for better community decisions across the board, then being on council could well be for you.
"Being a councillor is nothing if not character-building."
"Nothing in council is ever the work of just one person. But one's involvement can be critical if you're willing to stick your neck out for a good cause, persist despite obstacles, and work toward agreement inside and outside council," she said.
"If you love our place and community, desire to contribute, and delight in big challenges, then go for it."
Cr Rob Turner will hang up his hat at the end of this term ending a nine year stint representing the community.
He said the experience has been "overwhelmingly positive".
"In 2012, when an elected council was returning after five years in administration, I felt that as a local pharmacist and business owner who's lived in Port Macquarie most of my life, I should put up my hand and let the community decide whether they wanted me to represent them on council," he said.
"Thankfully they did, and it's been a huge privilege and an honour to represent my community in this way over the past nine years."
This council election will see many new faces elected, so please put your hand up.Cr Rob Turner
Cr Turner said it opened his eyes to a whole new level of understanding of the region's communities and the enormous scope and diversity of council operations.
"I'd certainly encourage any community-minded people who love where they live, to run for council. This council election will see many new faces elected, so please put your hand up. At times it's challenging, but it's a very rewarding job, and our community needs good people on council."
Cr Turner said working directly with Port Macquarie-Hastings' community groups, service organisations and council staff has been rewarding.
"I quickly learnt, the selfless commitment and dedication of such a large section of our community is incredible," he said.
Cr Peter Alley will also finish up his time with council at the end of this term and will not contest the next election as work commitments and family take a priority.
He said new councillors with a balanced perspective is the key.
"We all value the natural beauty of our coastline and our estuaries, the forests and the hinterland. From Port Macquarie to Long Flat. From Comboyne, the Camden Haven and to Telegraph Point. As we seek to protect our natural treasure, we need to also balance the impact of a growing community," Cr Alley said.
We need councillors in the next term that have a balanced perspective. We need councillors who will bring a critical perspective to the table.Cr Peter Alley
"I have always been passionate about improvements to our networks of footpaths.
"Pathways are not just transport infrastructure, they are critically important social projects that change the way that we interact as a community.
"While the big ticket items will continue to be the building and maintaining of our road infrastructure, we should never neglect our community building infrastructure.
"We need councillors in the next term that have a balanced perspective. We need councillors who will bring a critical perspective to the table.
"We need councillors who can consider the broad implications of the challenges that we face.
"People who will ask the questions of, what does this mean for us now and also for the community in five years, 10 years and 50 years and 200 years."
Cr Geoff Hawkins said it is crucial for the newly elected council body to operate as cohesive team.
"If you're not a 'team player', forget it," Cr Hawkins said.
Cr Hawkins said it is his experience that the vast majority of the community is surprised to hear that, compared to its peers, Port Macquarie-Hastings Council is in a financially strong position, has a unique and highly capable leader in Dr Clare Allen and has a workforce of generally competent and motivated people.
"This team of around 600 people is governed by a 'board of directors' normally consisting of a group of nine councillors," Cr Hawkins said.
Currently the councillor body of nine has reduced to six since the resignations in recent years of Mike Cusato, Justin Levido and Lee Dixon.
Being a team player does not mean 'group think' should predominate. Rather, it means professionally and respectfully considering all views as the councillor body works towards building a consensus.Cr Geoff Hawkins
"To prospective new councillors it's crucial that you see your councillor role in this context," Cr Hawkins said.
"It's also crucial, according to the state government and not just me, that the whole councillor group thinks and acts like a single, cohesive team. There will be times when you'll struggle to feel that you belong and are unlikely to be happy and effective.
"Being a team player does not mean 'group think' should predominate. Rather, it means professionally and respectfully considering all views as the councillor body works towards building a consensus.
"However, there is a positive side and if you have the right skills and attitude you will find, like I have, the greatest satisfaction of your lifetime in serving our fantastic community and contributing positively to a better life for all.
"Participating in council committees is especially valuable and enrichening. Much of the organisation's good work and creative innovation starts from such committees and as a majority of members are invariably community members it's a great way to get close and stay close to the community' pulse.
Cr Hawkins said the council will be best served by a diverse mix of councillors determined to act in the best overall interests of the whole community.
"And not just the noisiest sub-group who have managed to win the support of a particular councillor or group of councillors. This can only occur if you are facts driven and don't blindly follow what's 'popular'," he said.
Cr Sharon Griffiths will put her hand up for another run as councillor on a group ticket with the mayor Peta Pinson, Danielle Maltman and Adam Roberts.
"I believe the role of councillor is exceptionally varied and very important. Issues and topics for discussion will generally have significant impact on peoples lives and therefore it is important to understand the consequence of any changes or new direction," Cr Griffiths said.
"As a councillor of nine years I find the role rewarding and encourage the community to express their view, as this assists with decision making. Generally I have an open mind and consider all options.
"I am prepared to challenge and prefer to find practical solutions as well as outcomes based on priorities to provide tangible benefits for the community. My preference is for less talk and more action, less procrastinating and more delivery.
"It is important for the council to work collectively for the benefit of the community to achieve high productivity. Distractions need to be removed to allow a clear pathway for decision making and improve on delivery timelines."
Are you going to nominate?
There are 128 local councils in NSW. Of those, 125 councils will be holding elections on Saturday, September 4 for the election of councillors.
Some councils will also be holding mayoral elections, constitutional referendums and/or polls. In Port Macquarie-Hastings, a community poll will be run on the fluoridation of the region's water supply.
Voting is compulsory at all NSW local government elections, except for council polls.
For more information on the election, or to nominate, go to the NSW Electoral Commission website.
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