Dawn of a new era in Gympie council
THE Gympie Regional Council mayoral contest became a one horse race yesterday when long-serving councillor Ian Petersen announced he would not run for mayor on March 19.
The councillor says local government has changed for the worst in recent years and he is ready to retire, but that does not mean he will go quietly into the night.
"I have made the decision to retire completely from local government," he told The Gympie Times yesterday.
"It has been a very difficult decision," he said.
"After 19 years of total commitment to council and the region, I am keen to enjoy some life outside politics, especially the type of politics which has developed during the past term.
"On the other hand I am very worried about the direction of local government and wanted to make the changes that must be made to put the community back in charge of council as it should be under the representative democracy model.
"The CEO must be required to do the bidding of the mayor and councillors.
"It is just wrong and undermines the democratic process when the mayor and councillors are doing the bidding of the CEO.
"Councillors are or should be representatives of the community.
"When the councillors are sidelined, the community is sidelined.
"Events of the past few years have underlined the fact that local government is not what it used to be.
"I believe in excess of 55% of sitting councillors state-wide will not be seeking re-election, indicating broad spread disillusionment which I am certain is shared by the community
"Call me old fashioned, as some do, but I am in no doubt that community satisfaction levels were higher when council was more part of the community.
"The decision-making process was far more open and accountable.
"That meant council sometimes attracted criticism, but that was a positive thing and sometimes resulted in better outcomes.
"It was easy to communicate with council and the community felt involved.
"Staff had greater job security and repaid that with trust, loyalty and commitment to council and to the ratepayers.
"The revolving door effect of the massive staff purge during the current term has meant staff levels are just as high but are transient.
"That has destroyed morale and stripped the organisation of local knowledge and corporate knowledge and it shows.
"Apart from the past few years I have thoroughly enjoyed my time on council and will be eternally grateful to all those people who have supported me so loyally.
"It is most humbling to have had hundreds of calls urging me to continue and that has made my decision all the more difficult.
"I hate letting people down and apologise for doing so but I feel that I would no longer be able to give total dedication.
"It is not in my nature to continue with less than 100% commitment."