ARARAT Rural City Council has elected Councillor Jo Armstrong as mayor in a lightening quick meeting Tuesday evening.
Councillors assembled at the Shire Chambers at 6pm for a 12 minute meeting to vote in the next mayor and deputy mayor.
Cr Armstrong was nominated by departing mayor Cr Peter Beales, while Cr Gwenda Allgood was nominated by Cr David Pettman.
The vote was 3-4 to Cr Armstrong. Councillors Bill Braithewaite, Beales, and Fay Hull voted for Cr Armstrong.
Cr Allgood received votes from councillors David Pettman and Frank Deutsch.
Cr Braithewaite was the only nominee for the role of deputy mayor, and was voted in.
In Cr Beales' nomination pitch, he said he did not believe in affirmative action.
"Everyone who knows me knows that I'm not a great supporter of affirmative action ... I always look to the ability of people to represent us," he said.
"I believe she has the ability to make a very good mayor."
In Cr Pettman's nomination pitch he said Cr Allgood "is Ararat."
"I believe that Cr Armstrong is an outstanding candidate but I believe Cr Allgood is an outstanding candidate too," he said.
"She's the longest serving (female) councillor in Victoria and has a lot of experience here. She was born here, her whole family is here; Cr Allgood is Ararat, or the district of Ararat."
This will be Cr Armstrong's first run as mayor, though she served as deputy mayor in the previous 2018-19 term. Cr Armstrong was elected to council in 2016.
Cr Armstrong also ran for a seat in Victoria's upper house in the 2018 elections with the Nationals, though was unsuccessful.
Cr Armstrong said her experience in state politics has given her insight she will apply to her role as mayor.
"Running for the upper house gave me that opportunity to work with currently-serving MPs and it showed me an extension of that community service that I'm so passionate about," she said.
"Running for parliament was for me an extension of what I want to achieve for our community anyway. It's learning to listen to people, getting to the essence of what people's concerns are, what it is they're wanting to celebrate about their lives, what opportunities they are seeking to expand.
"It was a really rich experience for me to understand where local government sits in those tiers of government and in connection to community."
Cr Armstrong's priorities for the year ahead were clear.
"A really strong focus I have is on attracting candidates for next year's election, because we do have just such terrific people across our community who have got the calibre required to serve," she said.
"I think we deserve excellent representation, so if we can work hard to identify those individuals ... often people are not prepared to put their hands up themselves but they just need a little bit of encouragement.
"There are a lot of really busy people in our community who often feel like they are doing enough - and they are doing enough but they are often the people who are in the best position to recognise others who would make a great councillor.
"I think it's that communication across our community about what it is to be a councillor, what it is that makes a great councillor, and what it is that makes a great council."
Cr Armstrong confirmed she intends to run in the 2020 council elections.
As to the year ahead Cr Armstrong said she will listen to residents and be fair minded.
"A great councillor listens and thinks very carefully," she said.
"A good councillor doesn't come in with a pre-formed view. You must be prepared for your perspective to change when evidence comes to hand.
"That's one of those things I've really admired about Peter Beales and that's the example he's shown me as a councillor ... that you are always prepared to listen to what other councillors have to contribute in debate."
Originally hailing from New Zealand, Cr Armstrong and her husband run a mixed farming operation in Yalla-Y-Poora and have four grown children.
"When I was elected I was the only rural representative as far as residency is concerned ... and now Cr Braithewaite is up at Armstrong ... and Cr Deutsch came back onto council as well (through the countback) and he's in Lake Bolac."
Having a sense of community that bridges the rural/town divide was something that Cr Armstrong said council had been working hard to achieve over the past year, following on from the recent rates debacle.
"We've worked really hard to fix relationships across our rural communities and we're seeing the benefit of that," she said.
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