Returning Officer for Clarence Valley Council Ray Endean takes a look inside the ballot box.
Returning Officer for Clarence Valley Council Ray Endean takes a look inside the ballot box.

Bigger than Ben Hur

IT will be a new experience for 56 per cent of the candidates running in the Clarence Valley Council election on March 5.

Out of the 37 candidates, who will be publicly declared at noon today, 21 will run for election for local government for the first time.

Surpassing lack of experience in local government politics, however, is the obvious devotion to the Clarence Valley community that all nominees have brought to the election.

Many of the would-be councillors speak of their extensive involvement with community activities and ongoing commitment to its people and issues.

Lifetime resident of the Valley and radio announcer Richie Williamson wants to bring a fresh face to the inaugural nine-member Clarence council.

Mr Williamson is vice-president of Caringa Enterprises and has been heavily involved with Clarence Australia Day celebrations.

Yamba resident Doug Mackenzie, who was a vocal critic of council amalgamation, has been visiting the Clarence Coast since the 1950s.

The self-funded retiree, who is running for local government for the first time, intends to contact as many ratepayers in the Clarence Valley by door-knocking and said strong financial management for the council was a priority.

Business owner and Grafton resident Gordon Smith also is running for the first time and considers the formation of a Valley-wide plan essential for the new council.

Like many of the candidates, Mr Smith has been fairly vocal about making the amalgamation work by looking at the 'bigger picture'.

Junction Hill resident Vivienne Hughes has expressed similar views and said that everybody in the Clarence should benefit from a 'forward-thinking council'.

Ms Hughes nominates with around 20 years of community involvement that includes five years of membership on the board of christian schools and is the president of the Parents and Friends Association for St Andrew's Christian School.

Many of the fresh candidates head into the election with extensive managerial experience.

RAY DAVIS, of Brushgrove, boasts nine years at the helm of the Grafton-Ulmarra Dairy Company and a further 11 years as president of the Dairy Farmers' Association.

Likewise, Trevor Kapeen, of Woodford Island, runs for council as the general manager of the Nungera Housing Co-operative and a director of Clarence Coast Business Resources.

Some nominees like Sue Doust, of Southgate, have thrown their hat in the ring after years of serving and preserving the Clarence community.

Ms Doust, former spokesperson for the Save Grafton Research and Advisory Station Campaign Committee, recently won the 2004 Clarence Valley and Copmanhurst Citizen of the Year award.

Fellow Australia Day Citizen of the Year, Graeme Causon, also is running and describes himself as a 'lawyer by training, corporate executive by profession and retired by choice'.

Mr Causon has strong ties to the Clarence Valley after heading the 2000 Australia Day committee for the Maclean shire.

Serving the community in a greater capacity is South Grafton nominee Merilyn Baxter's intentions.

The first-time nominee said she wanted to be part of a team that helped find solutions to community issues.

Former 2003 State Election Labor candidate Terry Flanagan also will be one of the newcomers to the local government election race.

Mr Flanagan has extensive experience in State and Federal politics and said maintaining sustainable employment was a high priority for the new council.

Wooloweyah nominee Brendan Morant may not have the lengthy political experience of Mr Flanagan, but as one of the youngest candidates, Mr Morant could bring a crucial youth element to council's table.

Mr Morant has nominated with the hope of giving a voice to the Clarence Valley's youth. Mr Morant is a small business owner and is the vice-president of the Ulmarra Progress Association.

Brushgrove candidate Grace Clague has voiced similar sentiments as Mr Morant.

The 35-year-old said she was particularly interested in finding positive solutions for youth issues and developing stronger links between the Valley's youth and the elderly community.

Getting the Clarence youth more involved in the community also is a point of passion for Glenugie resident Sally Haig.

Ms Haig, who is a Grafton Base Hospital employee and former juvenile justice centre employee, would like residents to have more say in the running of local hospitals and health services.

For the past six years local government newcomer Mark Kingsley has taught at Maclean High School and heads the school's special education unit.

Mr Kingsley has raised youth and environmental issues, service provision for people with disabilities and standards of living for Aboriginal communities as points of personal concern.

South Grafton candidate David Bale is concerned about the loss of industry and business from the Clarence.

The builder has lived in Grafton for the past 23 years and said his main concerns lay with towns to the north and south of the Clarence Valley securing business opportunities at the expense of local residents.

Clarence Valley Council returning officer Ray Endean said a formal list of candidates and nominee groups would be declared at noon today.

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