By TOBY WALKER
COUNCILLOR Ian Tiley withstood a Coalition smear campaign and a tight 5-4 vote to last night be elected as the first mayor of a unified Clarence Valley Council.
Within seconds of beating out Cr Chris Gulaptis for the mayoral robes and a $76,000 a year package (including car), Cr Tiley shook his rival's hand and whispered a few words in his ear.
Cr Tiley later revealed that he had made a personal pledge to Cr Gulaptis to drop political differences and work together on council.
For his part, Cr Gulaptis also said he was prepared to be a team player for the betterment of the entire Valley. Both believed there was no room for party politics in local government.
This bipartisan approach was in stark contrast to the NSW Upper House on Tuesday night when Liberal MLC Patricia Forsythe used Parliamentary privilege to try to discredit Cr Tiley, a Labor Party member. (see Editorial P6).
Before a packed public gallery of 100 interested observers, councillors Shirley Adams, Terry Flanagan, Doug Mackenzie and Fred Morgan backed Cr Tiley for the top job.
Councillors Chris Gulaptis, Kerry Lloyd, Joy Mathews and Richie Williamson were on the losing side.
There also was an open vote for the position of deputy mayor, won by former Grafton City mayor Cr Adams over former Pristine Waters mayor Cr Lloyd by a 6-3 margin.
This vote mirrored the mayoral allegiances with the exception being Cr Mathews supporting Cr Adams.
Cr Tiley then took his leave to chair the first official meeting of the council.
He came prepared with a speech he was certain to use, admitting after the count that it had been a tough week of negotiating to ensure he had the numbers to be voted mayor.
"Sometimes we take the institution of democracy for granted," he told the gallery in the Grafton Civic Centre.
"I suggest to you that we must nurture the fragile flower of democracy...
"Today is the real democratic beginning of the union of the Clarence Valley Council."
Cr Tiley said a need for more roads funding, more police, a new bridge for Grafton and the completion of the Shannon Creek Dam project were just some of the issues facing the new council.
He also pledged to remain apolitical in his new role, opting to 'mend fences' and 'deal effectively with Macquarie Street' to bring more to the Clarence Valley.
Cr Gulaptis told The Daily Examiner he was ready to work with Cr Tiley and the rest of council to achieve positive outcomes without the pressure of a party line.
"There is one thing Ian said that I'll totally agree with and that is there is no place for party politics in local government," he said.
"There should never be party politics in local government.
"Unfortunately, it's a fact of life and it creeps in, especially when you have the bigger councils, and it's something all parties should be condemned for."