Family first for the valley's first family
THEY first met across the tables of the Freemasons Hotel, have moved all over the state for work, and are now the Clarence Valley's first family.
For Clarence Valley Council Mayor Jim Simmons and his wife Lexi, who celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last week, their tight-knit family has been what has made their connection special.
Jim worked for the NSW Petty Sessions as a clerk, and Lexi worked at the hospital as a domestic, as well as at the dining room at the Freemasons Hotel, currently occupied by the Clocktower.
"I even poured beers at Jacaranda time,” she laughed. "I think it was there we met in 1967.”
After a year of courtship, Jim was transferred to Parramatta and the couple married at St Matthew's Church in South Grafton on Bent St, which is now the site of the Riverside Church.
They lived in Guildford, then transferred to Balmain, and had to move to "the murder part” of Sydney on Annandale St.
"It's changed to a real yuppie place now, but back then it wasn't a really good place.”
The pair moved around the state 12 times in 12 years as Jim was transferred in the public service - where moving was compulsory with regradings or promotions.
When their first son Geoff was just about to start school, a job came up with the Canegrowers Association in Maclean, and they moved back.
"I worked for about 13 years there, and then I moved over to the Richmond branch, but we always had the house in Maclean and came back most weekends,” Jim said.
"Lexi looked after the four boys we had, and I was general secretary of NSW Canegrowers.”
In 1998, Jim decided to move into his own business and went into private accountancy practice with Peter Hamilton in 1998, a business he is still involved with today.
In 2002, he decided to run for election on Maclean Shire Council and won.
"A lot of people asked me how I felt about it,” Lexi said. "But I was used to it with the public service, and my dad was a councillor, so I grew up with it.”
When Clarence Valley Council was formed in 2004, Jim ran for the new council but ran 10th, behind Ian Tiley, who was then elected mayor.
However, a few years later, councillor Joy Matthews passed away, and Jim won the by-election.
Two years ago, he was elected as mayor, and was recently reappointed for the next two years.
He said that after some ill health it was good to have Lexi by his side at the events he went to.
"Except when she's playing golf, but it's good to have the support and do it together,” Jim said.
Jim has stepped back from an active role in the accountancy business, which two of his sons still work in, but said he could always get plenty of feedback on the mayoral position from Lexi.
"She always tells me about lots of things,” Jim laughed. "Especially about the bats.”
Lexi said the secret of their partnership was that they had been a close-knit family with the ability to stick together in tough times.