The regions most influential people.
The regions most influential people.

POWER 30 - Gympie's 5 most famous faces

IT is a huge achievement to be voted as one of 30 influential people in the Gympie Region.

But in this years list, we had five famous faces who made it. Wide Bay MP Llew O'Brien, Gympie MP Tony Perrett, Gympie mumtrepreneur Jody Allen, Devoted Milliner Cindy Vogels and campaigner for firearms Ron Owen's.

Five most famous faces:

1. Wide Bay MP Llew O'Brien


Llew O'Brien at the Coondoo creek on Tin Can Bay rd.
Llew O'Brien at the Coondoo creek on Tin Can Bay rd. Renee Albrecht

BEING named a political "maverick" or "troublemaker" by party members might make some politicians worry, but for Llew O'Brien it is a recipe that has driven him to success.

And while this is the second-year running that the Wide Bay MP has been named the region's most powerful person, he was not blind to the other side of the coin.

"The only place from here to go is down," he said.

While technically true, he seems intent on bucking the trend, having taken his election to the Power 30's top spot last year and run with it.

Since last year's list was released, Mr O'Brien has secured funding for the long-awaited Gympie Bypass, been a key player in delivering a royal commission into the banking industry, helped to deliver major funding to local businesses like Nolan Meats, and was a central figure in the LNP's imploding National Energy Guarantee, a tipping piece in the latest game of Australian Prime Minister dominoes.

But it was not always the big fish he was happiest to catch.

"Very, very important to me is the establishment of the local head space for young people," he said.

The $5 million funding for Nolan Meats was another, given the impact that money will have on the region's job market.

And the fact he was in the top spot was not lost on him.

"It is nice when you're recognised for something.

"In public life so often the promotion of you is not all that good.

"It's a huge honour. We've had some big wins delivering for Gympie," he said.

He has bent some pretty big ears in his efforts to deliver, too.

No more than two weeks after Michael McCormack was named Deputy Prime Minister, Mr O'Brien had the National Part Leader in the region to view for himself why fast-tracking Section D was so important.

And while the big achievements were the headline grabbers, his passion to improve the region extend much further.

His experiences as a former policeman were central in powering Mr O'Brien's passion for the region.

From roads to mental health or domestic violence, he has witnessed the social issues that tear at the fabric of the region's success.

And he never stops crediting his wife Sharon for not only helping him through those hard times, but helping him tackle the challenges which still lie ahead in getting the region where he wants it to be.

2. Gympie MP Tony Perrett


POWER 30 - Gympie MP Tony Perrett.
POWER 30 - Gympie MP Tony Perrett. Philippe Coquerand

NO MATTER the level of government, passion has been politician Tony Perrett's driving force.

Maintaining a focus on the impact of government on regional Queensland, Mr Perrett has been a strong advocate for local issues and the farming industry.

A member of the Kingaroy Young Nationals at 19, he entered politics as part of the Kilkivan Shire Council in 2003.

He went on to become deputy mayor, a role he again held when amalgamations formed Gympie Regional Council in 2008.

While the issues remained the same, the scale of his advocacy got bigger in 2015 when he was elected to Gympie's State seat.

Part of the Infrastructure Planning and Natural Resources Committee and as Deputy Opposition Whip, Mr Perrett made waves last year when he crossed the floor and voted against his own party's position to support a reclassification of lever-action shotguns.

Mr Perrett said the decision was "a matter of integrity".

"I am not afraid to stand solid in my support for the little person who is not being heard and for government to treat them with respect," he said at the time.

Going against the grain has not been a bad decision, either.

After his re-election in 2017, Mr Perrett was named as the LNP Opposition's shadow minister for agricultural industry development and fisheries and forestry.

But he has not lost sight of some of the questions burning his own backyard.

He has maintained a desire for accountability on the controversial restoration of the Mary Valley Rattler, calling for a State Government audit into the multi-million-dollar blow-out on the project and crossing swords with Mayor Mick Curran over how the project unfolded.

All in all, he has made it abundantly clear that when it comes to securing the future for the region's taxpayers and ratepayers, he "will not be intimidated".

3. Gympie mumtrepreneur Jody Allen


Jody Allen
Jody Allen Brendan Allen

THERE is no greater success story than that of Gympie mumtrepreneur Jody Allen.

It's no surprise the self-made powerhouse is back in Gympie's top five most influential people after hitting The Courier Mail's Queensland's Most Powerful 100 People list earlier this year, at number 78, beating Jeff Horn by one place.

The dizzying heights Allen has reached come seven years after the Gympie mum found herself struggling to feed her young family on the back of a redundancy.

The Pie Creek mother of two began sharing money saving tips online and quickly built a popular platform for parents to communicate with each other 24 hours a day.

Now the Stay at Home Mum website, and associated social media and media appearance offshoots, is an empire with more than 1.5 million unique visitors to the site per month and 500,000 social media followers.

Last year Allen joined forces with Queensland rural lobby group AgForce when she became the ambassador for the Every Family Needs a Farmer campaign, appearing on ABC's Landline and billboards around the state to champion the bridging of the rural urban divides

In an ABC interview last year, AgForce president Grant Maudsley said Allen was chosen due her large influence.

"Her followers buy a lot food and make a lot of decisions. They walk the supermarket aisles and they make food buying decisions, and Jody's one way of [getting to them]."

He said he could not look past the incredible pull of The Stay at Home Mum website, which generates 10 new pieces of content live every day, with the daily newsletter landing in 60,000 inboxes.

Allen's numbers did not disappoint, with her first agriculture story for the lobby group gaining 48,000 likes.

To share her business success, Allen, together with husband Brendan Allen and SAHM's Nic Millard, launched digital agency Tenacious Digital to help other small businesses get a foot in the online world.

Allen has also published four books, including best-seller The $50 Weekly Shop, with book five due early next year.

And to top it all off, Allen is due to star in the Stay at Home Mum TV Show on Channel 7 in the near-future.

4. Cindy Vogels


Artistic creator and designer Cindy Vogels jumps straight into the Power 30 at number 10.
Artistic creator and designer Cindy Vogels jumps straight into the Power 30 at number 10. DONNA JONES

SMASHING her way onto the Power 30 List and straight into the #10 spot is the Devoted Milliner, Cindy Vogels.

The dynamic single mum of four hit the headlines when one of her unique hat designs was picked up by THE fashionista of the 21st century, Lady Gaga.

Cindy's love affair was inspired by her mum, Carol, who was a noted seamstress in Nambour who won a number of big contracts for her unique costumes, bridal wear, sports uniforms and more.

Her business, The Devoted Milliner, has evolved into Racy and Lucky, a designer clothing label that tailors exclusively to emerging female artists in the music industry.

And it has proven to be great exposure with Cindy's designs featured in no fewer than 17 nationally and internationally published magazines.

Her latest project, Collab A Nation, came from a public performance idea inspired by Gympie businessman Tony Goodman.

It shines a spotlight on all the behind-the-scenes creatives and turns their work into a performance piece of art.

Collab A Nation has been embraced by the artistic community, especially on the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane, with a precursor to the format used to help open the Brisbane Art Prize in 2016 at the Judith Wright Centre and Collab A Nation opening the Australian Wearable Art Festival at Eumundi in August recently.

At Eumundi, Cindy was a featured designer, along with Peter Dwyer of the Whitehorse Institute of Design.

There are plans to take Collab A Nation (featuring almost all Gympie creatives) on the road and turn it into a reality TV Show with a producer, digital producer and other executives already signed on.

Cindy says that in everything she does, her family are always behind her with her parents providing her a creative space and room for a distribution centre at their home and her children her inspiration.

"We all only have one shot at this and I want to show my children that when it gets tough, you have to give it everything you have."

5. Ron Owen


Ron Owen from Owen Guns in Gympie.
Ron Owen from Owen Guns in Gympie. Renee Albrecht

ONE man. One shop. One huge influence.

An endless campaigner for people's right to own firearms, Ron Owen continues to play a large role in region economically and politically.

His reach is not small, either.

He sends more than 10,000 emails out every week, and his magazine Lock, Stock and Barrel is a hugely popular read.

His passion even extends to the past; a love visible in the gun museum he opened last year which includes some firearms which date back to the 1870s.

In the past year his already tireless campaign to finally bring about a solution to the more-than- 25-year-old problem of a Gympie shooting ratcheted up another notch.

Along with making it a major piece for the Gympie region is last year's state election (it was an electoral promise put forth by One Nation and the LNP), he has pitched a cutting edge solution in an effort to get Gympie Regional Council's feet moving - an underground range like those operating around Europe.

And while movement is still to be made, he has not been hesitant in pressing all political levels over why a decision is taking so long.

Not that he is new to the realm of political controversy, though; his enthusiasm and dedication to protecting the rights of law-abiding firearm owners has led to several historic blow-ups with authorities.

None of which he has ever let stop him from trying to make a difference.

Gympie Times

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