A DRAMATIC turn-around in the number of people who voted in last month’s Toodyay Shire Council elections is a tribute to those in power who realised that the old way of doing business had to end.
This newspaper said two years ago that dismal local election turnouts in 2013 and 2015 were unsustainable and – to their credit – councillors agreed in June that it was time for a change.
Their switch from ‘in-person’ voting on a Saturday – that many local residents didn’t even realise was happening – to a postal ballot of all electors over three weeks last month changed Toodyay voters from being among WA’s most apathetic to greatly exceeding the average State turn-out.
The defeat of a two-term president who seemed entrenched in the job also signalled an appetite for change that Toodyay’s new council would be wise to heed.
The fact that new President Brian Rayner was elected unopposed in North Ward without having to face local voters is no reason for complacency.
President Rayner would do well to use the “new broom” he announced from the chair at his first council meeting to bring a fresh approach to local civic leadership.
Our new president didn’t always cover himself in glory on previous councils but he has the experience as a volunteer firefighter, farmer and former Toodyay postmaster to know how to listen to a broad range of people and act accordingly.
And he has a sporting sense of humour – an essential asset for all good leaders.
Public leadership is a tough gig that demands a commitment to openness, transparency and accountability.
Get it right and everyone will be a winner.
IT IS WITH great delight that we welcome the return of local radio in new 2J 2AIR 105.3FM, now on air across the shire.
Like this newspaper, 2J 2AIR is run by a not-for-profit incorporated association of volunteers who have worked hard over the past three years to get Toodyay back on air.
2J 2AIR aims to be the ‘heartbeat of the community” and – apart from marvellous music now being broadcast 24/7 – plans a variety of new programs on local topics to help put Toodyay more on the map.
Getting this far has been exhausting work for the handful of volunteers currently involved – they need more help.
If you want to be a part of something new and exciting that can help our community grow and prosper, give them a call on 0406 918 952.
It's now up to you
IT’S TEMPTING to run a report card this month on the three Toodyay shire councillors seeking our votes to be re-elected for another four years.
However, it might take more space than is available here, and regular Herald readers probably don’t need to be reminded of all that has happened in the past four years.
Those who want change will know what to do, and those who want more of the same will vote accordingly – so be it.
All we urge is that readers take a few moments of their time to cast a vote.
However, it should be said that a successful council is one that talks to its constituents and is open and transparent in all that it seeks to do.
You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to be a shire councillor but common sense and empathy help.
A successful council also needs strong leadership that commands respect and can represent broad community interests, both at home and in the wider world.
That means listening, being respectful, consulting with others and making decisions in an open and transparent way.
It’s a big ask, and not everyone in the community is equipped to do it.
Being a leader is as much about personality and good communication skills as being tenacious when required.
It also means taking the community with you when tough decisions have to be made, and admitting mistakes when they occur.
Nobody is perfect.
A council can’t run a public survey every time it wants to make hard decisions.
But those who talk to a broad cross-section of the community and understand its needs and aspirations are more likely to succeed than those who don’t.
That’s easy to say, much harder to do and it takes time, effort and commitment.
The current candidates are seeking to represent the whole community – which is all of us – and at least two of them say they want to be our next shire president.
Those seeking our votes should be able to demonstrate that they understand the basic principles of good governance and support the need for effective leadership.
One last word.
Whoever wins this month’s shire elections should note that we will continue to report without fear or favour what goes on inside the council chamber and beyond.
It’s not our job to be the council’s community cheerleader – the shire has enough resources and plenty of opportunity to do that for itself.
All we want is open and transparent local government, effective leadership and outcomes that benefit the entire community.
That surely should not be too much to ask.