Nominations have closed. Nine candidates will vie for the crown of Geelong’s first directly-elected mayor. The race is on. Here’s a brief form guide.
Incumbent Mayor John Mitchell was the first to declare his intention to run for the new position as Geelong’s popularly elected mayor. Mitchell has a distinct advantage over other candidates: he’s the devil we know. In a time of political change (albeit minor), ‘Mitch’ is tangible.
A train driver who left school at 17, Mitchell has been Geelong Mayor since 2009 and served as Deputy Mayor in 2007 and 2008. He prides himself of his ability to lobby business and state and federal government on behalf of Geelong, claiming influence over the funding allocation for the Geelong Library and Heritage Centre and the decision by Alcoa and Huyck, two of Geelong’s larger employers, to remain in Geelong.
Mitchell also knows how Council operates. In a recent interview with The Geelong Times (29 August 2012), he sent out a warning to his less experienced running mates:
If people think they can just come in and wave a magic wand over what we do, the Local Government Act don’t allow that to happen. You need to have experience in the job. You need to have experience in how council functions. You need to understand how to get things done.
In the same interview he also disclosed that he has ‘always been a member of a union’, but never a member of a political party.
Mitchell submitted the following candidate statement to the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC):
As an experienced Councillor, Mayor, and truly independent candidate, I know what it takes to lead our great city. I believe passionately that Geelong and the Bellarine’s best days are in front of it, and our city and region have a great future. As Mayor, I’ve led the way in developing our Cultural Precinct, greatly increasing funding to our libraries and the programs that they deliver, building new kindergartens and improving children’s services, and developing fantastic community sports facilities which we now enjoy. I want to build on these foundations to deliver a better life for our elderly and aged, jobs and education for our children, whilst ensuring ratepayers get real value for money. I will provide open and honest government where Geelong and Bellarine residents have a say in their future. Thanks for your support over the last four years. Let’s make our future the best it can be.
» John Mitchell’s Council profile.
» John Mitchell on Twitter: @Mayor_Mitch.
» BayFM interview with John Mitchell, 8 October 2012.
» ‘Geelong mayor wants to work on’, Bellarine Times, 17 October 2012, Ali Deane.
» ‘John Mitchell looks forward to four more years’, The Geelong Times, 29 August 2012.
» ‘Mayor welcomes challenge’, Geelong Advertiser, 31 May 2012.
Keith Fagg was the second person to announce his intention to stand for Mayor. In an interview with the Geelong Advertiser, Fagg declared that although Geelong is currently facing a range of economic challenges, ‘We can be the sort of society that has a social conscience, a compassionate society and a vibrant society’.
Like Mitchell, Fagg has never been a member of a political party and wears his political independence with pride. His company, Fagg’s Mitre 10, is a member of the Geelong Chamber of Commerce.
Mr Fagg’s candidate statement reads:
We all care about Geelong’s future. We care about jobs, the future of our economy, our wonderful lifestyle and our strong sense of community. Geelong people have told me they want a fresh, forward looking approach together with sound leadership and commercial skills to embrace the many opportunities ahead. As Mayor, I will work actively with Council to do this. Roads, rates, parking and the CBD are among concerns you’ve told me about during my extensive listening tour in recent months. You’ve also asked me not to forget those in our community who are doing it tough. Through many years active involvement in community and charitable organisations, I understand these needs and have the commitment and energy to work for better outcomes for Geelong people. Working together with a bold, innovative approach, we can build a thriving future and make Geelong even greater. Read about my Vision for Geelong: www.keithfagg.com.au
» Keith Fagg’s website.
» Keith Fagg on Twitter: @Keith_fagg.
» BayFM interview with Keith Fagg, 8 October 2012.
» ‘MAYORAL FORUM: Businessman tops exit poll’, Geelong Advertiser, 11 October 2012, Shane Fowles.
» ‘Free CBD car parking on candidate’s plans’, Geelong Advertiser, 8 September 2012, Cameron Best.
» ‘Fagg is popular pick for mayor’, Geelong Advertiser, 24 August 2012, Cameron Best.
» ‘$1b plan is “visionary”’, Geelong Advertiser, 12 July 2012, Tom Bennett.
» ‘Keith Fagg confirms bid for mayor’, Geelong Advertiser, 30 June 2012, Peter Begg.
» ‘Frank picks his man for mayor’, Geelong Advertiser, 14 June 2012, Cameron Best.
» ‘Mitre 10 boss to run for Geelong mayor’, Geelong Advertiser, 30 May 2012, Peter Begg.
Bernadette Uzelac then threw her hat in the ring. Uzelac is the Executive Officer of the Geelong Chamber of Commerce, an ‘unashamedly “pro business”’ lobbying organisation in Geelong. She was also a founding director of the Committee for Geelong. Uzelac has completed a Commerce degree with a major in Commercial Law at Deakin University and a Graduate Diploma in Organisation Change and Development from RMIT. She also established the Geelong employment recruitment agency People at Work.
Bernadette Uzelac’s candidate statement:
I grew up and was educated in Geelong. My husband and I raised our family here. I have been and am currently involved in local charities, disability sector and community boards. I’m passionate about the region and that is why I’m running for Mayor. As a successful businesswoman I want to see the area prosper so people can get jobs and families can grow. To do that we need an environment where business will invest and I will encourage that. I want to see a stronger sense of community with more volunteering and support for multiculturalism. Arts and culture bind our community so I will foster them. Our environment, both built and natural, must be preserved for future generations. Our regions are as important as our city. I will nurture both. To me the investments that count are in our people, community, culture, arts, business and the environment. email@example.com www.bernadetteuzelac.com
» Bernadette Uzelac’s website.
» Brenadette Uzelac on Twitter: @Bern_Uzelac.
» Bernadette Uzelac’s LinkedIn profile.
» BayFM interview with Bernadette Uzelac, 8 October 2012.
» BERNADETTE UZELAC: Degraded buildings and litter call all of us to … Beautify the bay, Geelong Advertiser, 18 September 2012.
» ‘BERNADETTE UZELAC: At least our volunteers take tourism seriously’, Geelong Advertiser, 4 September 2012.
» ‘Uzelac joins race to be Geelong mayor’, Geelong Advertiser, 17 August 2012.
» ‘BERNADETTE UZELAC: Awards can open a window of success for the region’, Geelong Advertiser, 10 August 2012.
» ‘BERNADETTE UZELAC: Challenge and change’, Geelong Advertiser, 16 July 2012.
» ‘Recruit firm founder to head city chamber’, The Geelong Independent, 28 October 2010, Andrew Mathieson.
Stephanie Asher announced her candidacy via Twitter. Asher is a Communications Advisor at Barwon Medicare Local, Director of One Purple Pony Communications and Owner of SGR Publishing & Marketing. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Monash University and a Diploma of Management from Deakin. Asher is also a member of the Geelong Chamber of Commerce.
As an Ocean Grove local, Stephanie Asher is promising to represent the wider Geelong region, not just the city.
Stephanie Asher’s candidate statement:
My focus is people not politics. I have a track record in bringing people together, making tough decisions and being fair and accountable. As an independent candidate, my first priority is to get the basics right at Council. My style is open, direct and inclusive. I have strong values, massive energy and a huge capacity for work. I operate a small business and my twenty years in professional consulting includes recent senior positions at Australia Post and BHP Billiton headquarters. I’ve led teams in sport, community work and business. Our young family means I know the pressures and joys of running a household. Locally, I’ve worked with G21, Committee for Geelong, Barwon Regional Waste, Avalon Airport, Geelong Otway Tourism, Barwon Medicare Local and Vision2, so I understand the many issues and perspectives. I offer long-term thinking, hard yakka and a sense of fun. I will listen carefully and speak honestly.
» Stephanie Asher on Twitter: @StephanieAsher1.
» ‘Stepahnie Asher for Mayor’ Facebook page.
» Stephanie Asher’s LinkedIn profile.
» BayFM interview with Stephanie Asher, 9 October 2012.
» ‘MAYORAL FORUM: Businessman tops exit poll’, Geelong Advertiser, 11 October 2012, Shane Fowles.
» ‘Campaign controversy’, Geelong Advertiser, 9 October 2012, Shane Fowles.
» ‘Ocean Grove mayor candidate nominates’, Bellarine Times, 28 August 2012, Joe Taylor.
» ‘Stephanie Asher’s bid for mayor’, Geelong Advertiser, 27 August 2012.
» ‘STEPHANIE ASHER: Why don’t more want to run for mayor?’, Geelong Advertiser, 27 August 2012.
Then a fifth candidates emerged. Longtime Socialist Alliance member and Green Left Weekly contributor Sue Bull announced her intention to run for the position.
According to a report in the Geelong Advertiser, Bull has decided to nominate because she believes the mayoral elections need ‘a good dose of progressive politics’.
She has also said that she would live off the average wage of a skilled worker and give away what remains of the $173,000 mayor’s salary.
Sue Bull’s candidate statement:
I am running for Mayor of Greater Geelong because I believe that the needs of the community must be put ahead of corporate greed. I have seen the city develop with little attention to jobs, planning, public transport or environmental sustainability. Geelong must become more liveable in terms of public transport, sustainable housing and development of alternative industries which create ‘green collar’ jobs for workers sacked from local manufacturing industries. I also think Geelong should become a refugee welcoming city taking a stand against racism and that we must support our local TAFE fighting for better education and training. I do not support CEO style salaries for Mayors. If elected I would live on the average wage of a skilled worker donating the rest to community campaigns for social justice and the environment. I am a 55 year old Health and Safety teacher and a proud member of Socialist Alliance.
» ‘Sue Bull for Geelong Mayor 2012’ Facebook page.
» BayFM interview with Sue Bull, 8 October 2012.
» ‘SUE BULL: Have your say on who runs our rich city’, Geelong Advertiser, 10 October 2012.
As the nomination deadline loomed more candidates emerged, including Geelong Football Club player welfare officer and ex-player Ron Watt.
Mr Watt has been at the Cats for 14 years. He also has a teaching degree from Deakin University.
Watt declares that he has no political allegiances and will be self-funding his campaign.
Mr Watt’s candidate statement:
I am a hard working and motivated person who has raised a family in the Geelong region over the last 30 years. My background is in Education and for the last 14 years I have been employed at the Geelong Football Club in various coaching and development roles. I am committed to influencing attitudes and behaviours toward drugs, alcohol, violence and areas of diversity. I will be seeking new opportunities for our economy, be proactive with major projects and provide the best possible services to residents in all areas of the city. Everyone has a right to have a voice in their community and I will be inclusive in decision making processes. I have shown an ability to provide strong, positive and consistent leadership – this is something I can deliver in the role of Mayor as Geelong continues its journey to being a great city. Vote 1 Ron Watt.
» ‘Ron Watt for Mayor’ Facebook page.
» Ron Watt on Twitter: @RonDesWatt and @RonWattForMayor
» BayFM interview with Ron Watt, 10 October 2012.
» ‘Youth to have say in voting’, Geelong Advertiser, 8 October 2012.
» ‘Cats identity Watt joins race for Mayor’, Geelong Advertiser, 29 September 2012, Peter Begg.
» ‘New candidate steps out from behind the scenes’, Geelong Advertiser, 25 September 2012, Danny Lannen.
Graeme Robin, John Smith and Frank Rozpara also emerged at the eleventh hour.
You might call Graeme Robin a ‘grey nomad’; he prefers ‘backroads traveler’. A resident of Ocean Grove since 1973, Graeme worked in the accountant industry before opening a small business manufacturing domestic furniture. When the 1991 recession hit, however, Graeme and his wife Barb saw an opportunity for a lifestyle change. They closed the business and started touring Australia for three months of each year.
When Barb passed away in 2006, Graeme took the backroads travel to another level. For the next five years he toured the globe: Scandinavia, Iceland, Spain, Morocco, Russia and Japan. Now, seeing the new position of directly elected mayor as a genuine opportunity to change Geelong for the better, he has decided to focus on a new adventure: local government.
Graeme identifies three main problems with Council as it stands: unresponsive (though no doubt dedicated) bureaucracy, short-term vision, and a lack of financial accountability. Council rates last year climbed at four times the rate of inflation, but ratepayers see few improvements. Long-term regional unemployment, youth violence and citizen loneliness remain — difficult problems that need to be tackled ‘with patience and with focus’. The sort of patience and focus that Graeme believes he can bring to the job.
Graeme has never belonged to a political party or been involved with any business group. Nor has he sought financial contributions to fund his campaign. As he states on his website, all he seeks is a mandate from the people of Geelong — a mandate that he believes the new mayor can rightfully invoke at Council; a ‘strong message’ from the voters that the new mayor, whomever he or she may be, shares their vision. It’s a message he also says other councillors and the council bureaucracy ignore at their peril.
Graeme Robin’s candidate statement:
A challenge! Compare your council rates-bill with your yearly cost of electricity. Then compare with your gas, water, car registration and house insurance. Can you now tell me that our rates are reasonable? Does it make you angry, like it always makes me angry! So much money going out for council rates and so little coming back in return. It will only get worse because our council is expanding at 6% each year – four times faster than our population and indeed inflation too. It has to stop. It must stop. I am offering myself as a catalyst for change but it will be a challenge because previous councils have already done many of the easy things. And please don’t suggest I am not up to that challenge. This time last year I was driving my old Fiat across Russia from Finland to Japan. Alone. That was a challenge! www.graemerobin.com
John Smith is a little reticent. He’s not given the Victorian Electoral Commission permission to make his details or a photo of him publicly available. After initiating contact via the VEC, however, the Geelong Advertiser managed to milk one policy from him. Smith, they report, will implore Council to compete with Market Square and Westfield on parking rates.
Council parking meters currently charge $2 per hour in the CBD. Market Square offers the first hour of parking for free and only charges $1 for up to two hours parking. Mr Smith believes council should match Market Square’s rates.
Mr Smith submitted the following compulsory candidate statement to the VEC:
Firstly, let me apologise for having a slightly boring name. But it is real and has been for 48 years. I’m married with children and have lived and worked in the Geelong region all my life. I have a trade and engineering background and about 25 years work experience either in or alongside most government departments. Can I promise to lower rates, fix every pothole and make a better parking system – no I can’t. But I can assure you that I will be working my hardest to get the CEO and councillors to look at and adopt my new plans and procedures for a better council which respects ratepayers and community groups. I am not a member, motivated or backed by any political party in any way, shape or form. But I ask you to consider myself for the position of Mayor. Regards John Smith.
Some of Mr Smith’s fellow candidates question whether he is running a serious campaign. Keith Fagg, however, has come to Smith’s defence, saying,
I have spoken to John, he is a real person and has a number of ideas. He is standing in his own right.
Frank Rozpara submitted the following candidate statement to the VEC:
I came to Australia aged 3 in 1949 on Boats with many Migrants seeking a better future Settling in Geelong. Integrating Nations Cultures and Cuisines transforming into this City today. Married resident in Leopold 33 Years and served the community in all of Geelong in Real Estate, 4WD Instructor, SES. Seen historic changes to public’s demise, International Harvester and Pyramid collapse forcing travel to Melbourne and beyond pursuing my Auto engineering consultancy career. The Mayor’s role is tending our City’s needs. Encompassing the Planning Minister’s and Government’s Long range Plan. If I get this role I’ll be questioning him on this as I am passionate about Geelong am visionary and wish to contribute to its long term future. Observing public’s rights and democracy by viewing Plans he’s made and expect to see a reason. Anything short of the Westminster System of Government of democratic Acts, Regulation and Constitution is treason.
» BayFM interview with Frank Rozpara, 8 October 2012.
More on the race: electing Geelong’s next mayor
» ‘Mayoral candidates outline their visions for city’, Geelong Advertiser, 17 October 2012.
» Mayoral candidates discuss issues on ‘Scanlan’s Front Page’, 94.7FM The Pulse, 16 October 2012. Downloads: Part 1 [6MB], Part 2 [6MB].
» ‘DYLAN NICKELSON: Mayoral debate fails to attract young residents’, Geelong Advertiser, 16 October 2012.
» ‘Mayoral forum: public wants answers’, Geelong Advertiser, 10 October 2012, Peter Begg.
» ‘MICK ROBINSON: Role of the mayor must come under scrutiny’, Geelong Advertiser, 2 October 2012.
» ‘Party politics not part of campaign’, Geelong Advertiser, 2 October 2012, Shane Fowles.
» ‘Candidate statements for Greater Geelong City Council 2012 Elections’, Victorian Electoral Commission, last updated 1 October 2012.
» ‘Fidge slams election model’, Geelong Advertiser, 1 October 2012, Shane Fowles.
» ‘Incumbent secures vital preferences’, Geelong Advertiser, 1 October 2012, Shane Fowles.
» ‘Daylight between fast starter and other mayoral hopefuls’, Geelong Advertiser, 27 September 2012, Cameron Best.
» ‘Geelong voters to install first popularly elected mayor’, ABC News, 25 September 2012, Danny Morgan.
» ‘EDITORIAL: Mayoral race starts in earnest’, Geelong Advertiser, 25 September 2012.
» ‘PETER MOORE: If council candidates are in the party, just say so’, Geelong Advertiser, 21 September 2012.
» ‘BAYFRONT “BOMBSITES” CLEAN UP THE WATERFRONT: Calls for bay “action”’, Geelong Independent, 7 September 2012, Noel Murphy
» ‘MICHAEL BETTS: Leaders must stand tall for Geelong’, Geelong Advertiser, 7 September 2012.
» ‘EDITORIAL: High reward for mayor will pay off’, Geelong Advertiser, 5 September 2012.
» ‘New Mayor to get $173K’, Geelong Advertiser, 5 September 2012, Shane Fowles.
» ‘Race for mayor — candidates have their say’, Geelong Advertiser, 17 August 2012.
» ‘Mayoral candidates debate issues’, Geelong Advertiser, 17 August 2012, Peter Begg.
» ‘Geelong mayor joust just around bend’, Bellarine Times, 12 July 2012, Joe Taylor.
» ‘Mayor? We don’t care’, Geelong Advertiser, 11 February 2012, Shane Fowles.
» ‘Geelong voters to elect Mayor’, Department of Planning and Community Development, 23 November 2011.
» ‘Direct democracy for Greater Geelong’, Premier of Victoria Ted Baillieu, Media Release, 18 November 2011.
» ‘Direct Election of Geelong Mayor’, Department of Planning and Community Development, 24 June 2011. Public submissions to Local Government Victoria on the question of whether Geelong should have a directly elected mayor.
» ‘Playing the mayoral game’, The Age, 10 June 2011, Shane Green.
» ‘Voters back stars for mayor: survey’, Geelong Independent, 31 March 2011, Kim Waters.
» ‘People’s mayor vote warning’, Geelong Advertiser, 22 March 2011, Alex Johnson.
» ‘Liberals promise people’s mayor for Geelong’, Geelong Advertiser, 15 October 2010, Jeff Whalley.
Official nominations open on Thursday 20 September and close on Tuesday 25 September.