POWER 30: Gympie region's most influential revealed #21-19
THIS is a sneak peek into the Gympie region's most influential people of 2019 - the men and women who make the list of movers and shakers, decision makers and shot callers.
This week, The Gympie Times has slowly rolled out a series of sneak peeks into who has made this year's list, with the full list of 30 to be revealed online on Friday night and in print on Saturday. The series will also reveal the region's most famous faces, young guns and influential families.
Here we introduce the next three power players, ranked between #21 and #19.
POWER 30, 2019: Sneak peek at Gympie region's most influential #30
POWER 30, 2019: Sneak peek at Gympie region's most influential #29
#21 Dean Comerford
DEBUTING in the Power 30 in #21 spot and providing spiritual inspiration is Pastor Dean Comerford.
He is the shepherd to about 300 parishioners in his non-denominational organisation, the Gympie Community Church, which Pastor Comerford says has the largest congregation outside of the Catholic community in Gympie.
In addition to ministering to his flock, Pastor Comerford works closely with other ministers as secretary to the Gympie Minister's Network.
"We call it Gympie Combined Churches because that makes it clear to people what it is,” Pastor Comerford said.
He and all the ministers work together to achieve projects such as delivering joint services and prayer meetings, running religious instruction in the schools and supporting and helping chaplaincy programs in the region.
He said the organisation also had a deep interest in spreading the message via 91.5FM Cooloola Christian Radio and providing financial and moral support to charitable organisations such as Hope Reins, an organisation which uses rescued horses to help vulnerable members of the community to overcome personal hardships.
Pastor Comerford said his highest profile work was helping to organise Gympie's Christmas in the Park event each year.
The popular event has been steadily growing over the 10 years that Pastor Comerford has been involved, with 5000-6000 people from all walks of life attending the last event.
Pastor Comerford said his role as chairman of the Christmas in the Park committee made him part of a chain of hard working people from different churches who all pulled together to make the event a success.
This combined approach gels well with his ethos.
"After all,” he said, "the scripture says we should be united in mind and thought.”
POWER 30, 2019: Sneak peek at Gympie region's most influential #28
POWER 30, 2019: Gympie region's most influential revealed #27-25
#20 Kathy Little Walker
GYMPIE Regional Forum Facebook page creator Kathy Little Walker is the most divisive figure on this year's list, but there is no denying the impact she has had on council coverage.
Making her Power 30 debut, the Gympie-born Mrs Walker has spent the past four years fighting for change at the local government level, and said any animosity aimed at her was water off a duck's back.
"I know the ones who revile me, they tell me so,” she said.
"I don't care because it's not to do with me.”
Her interest in council started with ex-planning officer Jill Promnitz, who was found by the Queensland Industrial Court to have been unlawfully sacked by the Gympie Regional Council, and escalated after former head of planning Mike Hartley was cleared of criminal fraud charges in 2014.
"That was disgusting,” she said.
"But it was mainly Jill to start with.”
Mrs Walker's wider concerns about the modern council climate have proven to be grounded in reality; in the past four years, local government has been embroiled in the worst cluster of integrity scandals in its history.
This includes the sacking of the Ipswich and Logan councils, the conviction of ex-Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale for extortion, and Pisasale's replacement Andrew Antoniolli's conviction for fraud.
Through the GRF, she has forged links with the Queensland Local Government Reform Alliance (which held its AGM in Gympie in 2017) and council candidates for other regions, including Jannean Dean and Gary Duffy.
And she said it's not about being anti-Gympie council, but against the modern local government climate. She points to the resignation of outspoken Noosa councillor Ingrid Jackson last week as the latest example.
"We're not going to have this any more,” she said.
#19 Cr Glen Hartwig
OUTSPOKEN Division 2 councillor Glen Hartwig makes his first appearance on Gympie's Power 30, having garnered a swell of support for his continued challenging of the local government status quo.
The ex-police officer and Gympie businessman's continued stand for more transparency has proven prescient: he flagged the Rattler's final blown-out cost as nearer to $20 million than $10 million more than six months before the final figure was established ($17.1 million when the train started running, and other payments followed).
He has also been vocal about challenges presented by the council's planning department - a department now being reviewed by the council to improve the process for developers - and questioned the council's ongoing spending habits, a topic under more scrutiny as the council continues to run budgets at an operational deficit (including next year's, at least three have been in the red from 2015-2020).
The circumstances surrounding the departure of former head council engineer and now-Cr Bob Fredman in 2016, and the controversial overhaul of Gympie's water services have been an ongoing concern for Cr Hartwig - issues exposed to a new light following the release of a controversial water report through the Right to Information Act.
In his own division, Cr Hartwig has helped establish the new Curra Hall ,the Curra MX Bike Park, an upgrade to Anderleigh Rd and improvements to Gunalda's heart through the Our Towns program.
His position on council matters has made him a target for critics; it has also garnered him a backing he hopes to translate into a successful mayoral bid at the March 28, 2020 election.
SPORT POWER 20: POWER 20: The most influential people in Gympie sport #1-20
This list is a subjective talking point, not a scientific guide. We welcome feedback from the public. It is about the 30 most powerful and /or influential men, women and children living in the Gympie region. How strong and broad is their influence? A special committee of four community leaders from various walks of life have voted on who should be on this 2019 list and where they rank.
Is there somebody you think should be on the list? Email your contenders to editor@gympietimes or comment below and tell us why.