This council, when its term expires in October 2024, can't be remembered for its inexperience and missed opportunities, it can and needs to change - fast - and deliver on its promises.
Warrnambool City Council is again in turmoil. Just 16 months after a clean sweep of councillors that was heralded as a fresh start - the circuit breaker the council needed after four years of controversies and personal politicking - the new council is already at the crossroads.
This week, mayor Richard Ziegeler resigned from the top job after just five months. To outsiders it was a shock, no mayor in the previous 44 years had failed to see out a 12-month term in the post.
But tensions had emerged between councillors in recent times, so perhaps it wasn't such a surprise.
The seven elected to represent the city's best interests campaigned on unity, transparency and openness. Yet, the city needs to find a new mayor.
There were plenty of positives about seven fresh faces being elected but veteran council-watchers warned there were pitfalls - inexperience, a lack of understanding of procedures and governance.
To date, this council is showing why some previous experience was needed.
Understandably, this council needed time to find its collective feet, navigate its way through inductions and get up to speed with inner workings and the issues. Its start was not helped with instability in the administration as three different people filled the role of chief executive officer.
Councillors were not responsible for the CEO situation but they have been found wonting on key issues at public meetings.
Last year they unanimously voted to keep themselves at the top pay bracket. Cr Ben Blain at the time said councillors were starting to feel there was more to the role than what they first thought.
They campaigned on vowing to be open, but in May last year Cr Blain took aim when councillors voted in new governance rules that missed an opportunity to allow citizens to address councillors at public meetings.
"Open and transparent. That was the catchcry. And it seems that I think we've forgotten it a bit," Cr Blain said then.
"This could have been a big step forward for Warrnambool."
Then in June last year, on a 5-2 vote, a rates hike and "astronomical" car parking fee rises were passed. Cr Ziegeler at the time said the debt and financial pressures on the council was the legacy of previous councils.
"Some of the greatest critics of a rate rise have been responsible for some of those debts that we're faced with and dealing with," he said.
Cr Blain said he didn't see any point in blaming anyone else for the council's finances. "We are the new council, we are the ones driving the bus," he said.
"It's what we signed up for. The blame game has to stop and we are responsible for our own decisions.
"This budget under a new council could have been a budget supporting the community but in my view it's a budget where council's supporting council."
More recently councillors said they were confused and decided to defer voting on a proposed new KFC outlet in the city's north.
Cr Debbie Arnott, who has stepped up to be acting mayor, has already ruled herself out of running for the job when a vote is held in coming weeks. So too has Cr Otha Akoch. So just who will be mayor?
Those running for council can't just expect to be a councillor - they have to expect they could be mayor, which, with a purse of $96,470 and rising, carries significant responsibilities.
This council has to get the appointment right. The mayor needs to be a strong leader, a good communicator with not only councillors and staff but the community and stakeholders like the media. This council's actions need to speak louder than words. The community wants to see leadership, vision, action. This council, when its term expires in October 2024, can't be remembered for its inexperience and missed opportunities, it can and needs to change - fast - and deliver on its promises. That is, after all, why the seven were elected.
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