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Power 30: Gympie's most influential 5-1

Jody Allen comes in at No. 4 in the Gympie Power 30.
Jody Allen comes in at No. 4 in the Gympie Power 30.

#5 Bernard Smith

 

Bernard Smith.
Bernard Smith. Patrick Woods

BERNARD Smith oversees the day-to-day business operations as the chief executive officer of the Gympie Regional Council.

In the role, Mr Smith has a handle on the Gympie Regional Council's $96.5million budget and, as a result, an indirect influence on the lives of about 50,292 people who live within the region.

Mr Smith has a strong background in regional local government across a range of positions in three states.

After obtaining a degree in civil engineering, he undertook a range of roles at the City of Berwick in Melbourne's outer east before going to the City of Sandringham in Melbourne in a director level position.

Following amalgamations in Victoria, Mr Smith was then appointed as director of environmental services at the newly created City of Greater Bendigo.

In 2000 he was appointed general manager of Port Macquarie Hastings Council, a position he held until 2008.

Mr Smith joined Gympie Regional Council in 2011 as chief executive officer and considers himself fortunate to have experienced local government in both the regional and metropolitan context.

Mr Smith recently said he enjoyed playing a role in continuing to develop an organisation that provided high-quality services to the community and to assist the council in its most important responsibility of planning and delivering for the Gympie region's future.

#4 Jody Allen

FROM an expectant mother who started a parenting blog in the spare room of her house after being made redundant to the star of an upcoming national television series; Jody Allen's climb to fame is dizzying.

The bright and bubbly Gympie woman began sharing money saving tips and had quickly built a platform for other mums to talk to each other 24 hours a day.

Half a million followers later, the mother of two now has a readership of up to 1,000,000 mums per month on her website, has one of the most popular parenting websites in the country and is about to publish her fourth book with Penguin Publishing.

Making waves across the nation, Mrs Allen is Agforce Queensland Ambassador for the Every Family Needs a Farmer 2017 Campaign and has highlighted the importance of farmers in our community, appearing on an episode of ABC's Landline.

Alongside the state's most innovative, Mrs Allen also made the Advance Queensland Community Digital Champion list and to top it off her Stay at Home Mum TV Show starts on Channel 7 in October.

#3 Mick Curran

 

Mayor Mick Curran.
Mayor Mick Curran. Renee Albrecht

MICK Curran has a law enforcement background, having been a member of the Queensland Police Service for more than 30 years with a career in uniform, investigative and managerial roles. From this work he received the Bravery Medal from Governor-General Peter Cosgrove in 2016.

Mayor Curran began with Gympie Regional Council when he was elected to Local Government in 2012. He was subsequently elected as Mayor in 2015 as a result of a by-election due to the sad passing of the region's previous mayor Ron Dyne and was re-elected in the position last year.

Dissatisfied with Gympie's reputation in other areas, he has worked reverse it and make Gympie a place to be in Queensland.

Since taking over the role of Mayor, he has been instrumental in the award-winning Aquatic Recreational Centre's construction, the Smithfield St revamp, his efforts to get the heritage Mary Valley Rattler back on track and make the Mary River a key part of the region's economy, and overseeing the region's G150 celebrations, which will attract the eyes of the state in October.

#2 Tony Perrett

 

Tony Perrett.
Tony Perrett. Frances Klein

A FIRM believer in the importance of community engagement, Tony Perrett is a born politician.

With a political life consistently focused on regional Queensland, and as the member for Gympie in state parliament, he has continued to be a strong advocate for local issues.

The son of Trevor Perrett, the member for Barambah from 1988 to 1998, Tony first became involved with the Kingaroy Young Nationals in 1988 at 19 years old.

Mr Perrett would later enter politics proper in 2003 when he was elected to the Kilkivan Shire Council.

Steadily rising through the ranks, he was appointed deputy mayor before once again taking the role with the formation of the Gympie Regional Council in 2008.

In 2015, Mr Perrett rose to state politics, which has done little to dull his commitment to the region, often looking to promote issues falling outside the south-east corner of Queensland.

However, he has also taken on a variety of roles in and outside of opposition, including time spent as a member on legal affairs, finance and agriculture committees.

Currently, he is a member of the Infrastructure Planning and Natural Resources Committee as well as the Deputy Opposition Whip.

In his maiden speech to parliament, he listed both the rich history of the Gympie region as well as the many economic benefits it provides to Queensland as a whole.

He is also vocal about issues affecting the region, being a strong advocate on improving safety across local roads, as well as the slipping access to both employment and education across the region.

"A good education is a very precious opportunity that we can give our children," he said.

"Having choice in that education is an even greater opportunity."

A firm believer in actions speaking louder than words, Mr Perrett is an almost-permanent fixture at community and charity events across the Gympie region.

#1 Llew O'Brien

 

Llew O'Brien.
Llew O'Brien. Renee Albrecht

THE threat of nuclear annihilation, the predicted decline of Christianity and a forecast climate apocalypse - the big issues of the world combine in our region with domestic concerns from same-sex marriage and aged care to underemployment, drought and high rates of domestic violence.

The daily struggle for home and family may often obscure the international sensitivity of our trade-dependent Wide Bay economy, largely founded on export agriculture, tourism, manufacturing and the emerging pillars of health care and education.

Gympie region and Wide Bay electorate are places where domestic prosperity reflects international markets.

An example of our region working well, according to federal MP Llew O'Brien, is the export access Nolan Meats provides to local beef producers, as well as employment for others.

Economic and cultural diversity has meant strength for Wide Bay, but also challenges.

For Mr O'Brien it may sometimes seem to be almost impossible to please everyone.

As part of the Turnbull government he sees his job is keeping us somewhere near the driver's seat. And odd as it may seem, he says some of the insecurity experienced by that government is making us more influential in Canberra.

"Whereas my predecessor (Warren Truss) was deputy prime minister and at the centre of power, my influence is coming from the outside.

"A government with a majority of one is much more inclined to listen to individual MPs and I may have made myself a little unpopular at times pushing concerns like aged care, palliative care, road safety and domestic violence," he says.

"But it's not Llew O'Brien being important, it's the people of Wide Bay that matter and it's my job to make sure we get our fair share of funding and influence."

Mr O'Brien's potentially pivotal role in representing our concerns on the national and international stage puts him in the often uncomfortable lead as Number One in our Power 30 list of the region's most influential people.

Fortunately or unfortunately for him, Mr O'Brien has a personal commitment on some of these important issues.

Some of that comes from the often stressful experiences of his earlier life as a police officer.

That is where, he tells us, he got his serious commitment on issues like road safety and domestic violence.

He has seen too much of them and their consequences.

The Bruce Hwy is not the only road he wants improved, but his experience dates back to its days as a death trap, a highway with a body count comparable to a war zone.

Now he says, the danger has moved north.

It was only a couple of months ago that he led a delegation of Wide Bay mayors to meet federal Transport Minister Darren Chester on that issue.

He told parliament of the 13,800 vehicles using the Bruce Hwy through Gympie each day.

And the 64,000 people expected to live here by 2036.

And the 173 casualty crashes and 25 deaths on the highway between 2003 and 2007.

And as flood- free national infrastructure, he says it will pay for itself in terms of productivity just by giving Gympie a completely flood-free link to its southern markets for produce and employment, particularly the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane.

The RACQ estimates traffic congestion costs the economy $16.5 billion a year, with this expected to reach $53 billion by 2031.

In 2014, the Bruce Hwy was listed as one of the world's 25 most dangerous roads.

As a former crash investigator he says few things frustrate him more than the ability of politicians thousands of kilometres away to ignore such issues.

Domestic violence was a major theme of his maiden speech to federal parliament last year.

He also spoke of his own experience of mental illness, in the form of post traumatic stress disorder, much of it a result of his experiences as a crash investigator, seeing the damage up close and first hand.

Confronting "absolute tragedy and trauma" took its toll.

"I went through a very intense phase which saw me struck down by depression and anxiety.

And he spoke of the saving work of the strong women in his life.

He credits a "supportive employer" and "my amazing wife" Sharon, for helping him through the year it took him to get back to work.

Wide Bay had more than its share of mental illness, he told parliamentary colleagues.

And suicide rates were highest in his home town of Gympie.

He recalled lessons of honesty and courage learned from his mother, whose death from motor neurone disease came when he was 17.

A year later he met "the love of my life, Sharon".

"I worked on farms, in factories and anywhere else I could earn a wage," he said.

They jointly reached the decision for him to join the police service.

"As a bloke whose life has been enriched and guided by the powerful women in it, responding to incidents of violence, particularly violence against women and their children, made my blood boil. We as a society must do more to prevent all domestic and family violence," he said.

It has been a long road to Canberra, but he says Wide Bay people are in charge of what he does there.

Topics:  gympie gympie power 30 2017 llew o'brien stay at home mum

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