Gulaptis: looking back on a year of political highs and lows
A BAT infestation at Maclean High School spawned Chris Gulaptis's political career.
From being the school's P&C president, he became the Maclean Shire Mayor and this week celebrates his first year as Member for Clarence.
And the kind of year he's had is enough to send anyone batty.
Macquarie St is a damn sight bigger than Maclean School hall and negotiating the nooks and crannies in his first year has been a "steep learning curve".
"It's hard trying to find out where to get information from for speeches, which ministers to see to represent your constituency," Mr Gulaptis said.
"Fortunately my staff members are all very capable and experienced and they keep the whole electorate office functioning."
He fell from grace with the electorate at the beginning of July this year when his government announced it would be downsizing Grafton Jail.
Initially, Mr Gulaptis defended the government's decision and denied the extent of the impact before he was shamed into conceding he "stuffed up" in front of thousands of protestors at a rally to save the jail.
Speaking yesterday of his biggest challenge in his first year in the hot seat, he said every day was a challenge but that most "paled into insignificance compared to the closure of the jail".
"It rocked the community and it certainly rocked me," he said.
Mr Gulaptis said he defended the government because he didn't know the extent of the job cuts.
"I could understand some jobs being lost.
"I tried to defend it and hadn't prepared for the fact it hadn't been job losses but a closure."
He said he wasn't "scared" standing in front of the jeering crowd and admitting he was wrong, but said it was a tough period.
"I can't deny that, but I just put myself in the position of the people who lost their jobs.
"They just deserved someone to stand up and be honest about it."
Mr Gulaptis said if he had his time over, he may have had a better choice of words, but it would be impossible to have changed his actions.
"I was in the middle of an accident," he said.
"It was an exceptional set of circumstances and everyone was on holidays, including the Premier."
Rewind to post-election: It was a comfortable win for the National Party member who was stepping in after disgraced MP Steve Cansdell resigned.
"The first thing I did was have a tour of the electorate.
"One of the real pressure points was the closure of the Coraki Hospital.
"I think the community is relatively satisfied with the options put forward."
As for what he hopes to achieve into the future, Mr Gulaptis said it couldn't be judged on a yearly basis but you had to look at one or two terms of government.
"It's been a difficult year," he said.
"I'm looking at building on the 2020 plan to get a Grafton bridge by the timeline indicated and to get a Pacific Hwy.
"They are the big ticket items I'm looking at."
- Joined the National Party 1997
- Elected to Maclean Shire Council 2000
- Was beaten by Janelle Saffin in 2007 Federal Election
- Elected as Clarence MP 2011
- Mentor: Ian Causley
Watch the Grafton Jail video here >>>>