There were tears, applause and plenty of laughter as Corangamite Shire’s outgoing council reflected on its past four years and paid tribute to two councillors who sat at the table for the last time.
Tuesday marked the final meeting for retiring councillors Geoff Smith and Chris O’Connor, with speeches of congratulations and thanks flowing from the council table and the packed public gallery.
Cr Smith has served on Corangamite Shire since its inception. His 32-year career in local government began on the Hampden Shire and, following amalgamations in the mid-1990s,he has continued to represent the towns in the shire’s north.
Cr O’Connor has served eight years on council, three terms as mayor, and has been a vocal advocate for Terang and the region.
While neither men were keen to make a fuss, both thanked their families, communities and fellow councillors for years of support.
“I am going to miss being involved in the council. It’s a big part of my life and a big part of my social life. I regard all the councillors and the staff as friends,” Cr Smith said.
“Whoever comes onto the new council will soon realise the thing works well and I think we can be confident that in the future we will continue to make good decisions like we have in the past.”
Cr O’Connor said he had enjoyed his time in the role and working alongside fellow councillors and council staff.
“We’re all here for the same reason, we’re all on the same side... I’ve really enjoyed working with you people and I will miss it terribly,” he said.
“It’s been an absolute privilege to serve the people of Corangamite, it’s been a privilege to be voted in. I wish the new council all the best.”
Long-time councillor Ruth Gstrein said Crs Smith and O’Connor had brought knowledge, leadership and lively debate to their roles.
Mayor Jo Beard said Cr Smith helped set the standard for a cohesive and effective council.
“Geoff, you are the culture of Corangamite Shire. You never miss a beat,” she said.
“We’re here because we care and we like making a difference in our communities and it’s certainly not something we take lightly.”
Cr Wayne Oakes broke down as he reflected on the achievements of the council and the legacy Crs Smith and O’Connor.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank you Chris on the amazing level of leadership you have displayed during your term as mayor,” he said.
“Jo, you had enormous shoes to fill and… I can tell you there is not one councillor here that wouldn’t say you have mightily surpassed all expectations.
“And then, of course, there’s Geoff...”
- More on Geoff Smith’s life in local government in Saturday’s Weekender lift-out