The new mayor of Dungog wants to restore calm to the community.
Cr Nancy Knudsen was elected mayor on Wednesday, June 14 at an extraordinary meeting of council attended by three of the remaining four councillors.
Cr Linda Bowden was elected deputy mayor.
“There’s a huge job to do and I’m determined to do it,” said Cr Knudsen.
“This is not a role that I ever sought, but for the short time until my term ends on 9 September 2017 I am dedicated to doing the best job I can for all residents.
“If I have a goal it is just to reassure people that nothing terrible is happening.”
The council has received no formal communication from the state government on its future after calls from State MP Michael Johnsen for an administrator to be appointed following the recent resignations of five councillors (including the mayor) and the general manager, Craig Deasey.
When questioned about the possibility of an administrator being appointed, Scot MacDonald MLC, the Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter said the government “is still looking at it.”
“The Premier and minister met with members of the Dungog community (last week) at community cabinet in Singleton," he said.
Cr Knudsen said the remaining councillors were carrying out business as usual following legal advice from the Office of Local Government.
The remaining councillors are working towards fulfilling the council resolution to present comprehensive information to the community on various options for the council’s future before a poll to be taken at the September elections.
These options include standing alone, merging with Port Stephens or Maitland councils or changes to the council boundaries.
Cr Knudsen acknowledged the poll would only be a guide for the new council to follow and had no legal standing.
“But it would be a brave council who chose to ignore it.”
She said it was pointless for people to say what “should” have happened decades ago.
We all want the same thing – vibrant villages and the lifestyle we treasure,” she said.
“We all have different ways of achieving it. I respect that. It’s democracy.”
Despite the current turmoil there was never any question for Cr Knudsen to throw the towel in.
“I took on this role as a councillor, I see it as my obligation to continue, it never came up for me as a question of whether or not to stay,” she said.
“It would be extraordinary for me to do anything else (but continue). Naturally I don’t think it’s ideal to have four councillors. Even with a reduced number of councillors, Dungog Shire has a ratio of 2,750 residents per councillor, as opposed to 6-7,000:1 in surrounding shires.”
Cr Knusden remains noncommittal on whether she will seek re-election.
“I would encourage people to look at their community leaders and get them to run for council.”