BRING ON THE ELECTION
By SALLY GORDON
WITH a quiver in his voice and a smile of accomplishment, administrator Neil Payne officially closed yesterday's final meeting of the Carr Government-appointed Clarence Valley Council.
Seconds later, council's acting general manager Ken Boyle intervened, reminding the outgoing administrator he had overlooked the final segment of the meeting, the public open forum.
Luckily there were no punters in the gallery, and all that was left to do was say goodbye to the past 12 months of short meetings and a council with no councillors.
The hour-and-a-half meeting, which drew to a close at 3.35pm, marked the end of a transitional era for local government in the Clarence Valley.
It began on February 25, 2004 when the Clarence Valley's four general-purpose councils and two special-purpose councils were axed and the then mayor of Copmanhurst shire, Neil Payne, was elevated to the administrator's position.
But come March 11, when the Clarence Valley Council election is declared, council's first arbiter aka the George Bush of the Clarence Valley, will be expected to hand back his car keys and clear his office.
"That day when I'm driving home, it will be a little bit different to when I'm driving home today, even though I know there will be no more meetings I will be chairing," a reflective Mr Payne said.
His mayoral minute summarised a progressive inaugural year for the Clarence council, despite earlier expectations of an underperforming council weighed down by onerous administrative tasks.
Following the meeting, Mr Payne acknowledged the invaluable input from council staff and even admitted that behind the scenes, the administrator's role was challenging but not suffocatingly stressful.
"... I was prepared to make the decisions when I had to make them and after a while the pressure didn't worry me because I honestly believed I was making the decisions in the best interest of the Valley," he said.
Unlike, Mr Payne who intends to take some time off from local government, council's acting general manager Ken Boyle said he was ready to continue.
He said it all depended on whether the newly-elected council would keep him in the role.