By HARRY CLARKE
SPORTSBET has sitting Rockhampton councillor Tony Williams as the odds on favourite to win what’s shaping up to be a fascinating mayoral by-election, when residents of the Central Queensland beef capital hit the polls on Saturday.
With a staggering 17 candidates nominated, political pundits have agreed that tipping the winner of the snap local government election on January 23 is akin to tipping a Melbourne Cup champion.
Preferences will be crucial, according Griffith University political commentator Paul Williams . He told the ABC that with such a large number of candidates, preferences would be “sprayed in every direction”, and that it was unlikely any candidate would garner more than 50 percent of the primary vote.
Former Rockhampton Regional Council mayor Margaret Strelow, too, has highlighted the importance of preferences.
“The winner may have a primary vote as low as 10 percent,” Ms Strelow said in a Facebook post. “Please don’t just vote one… Please number as many candidates as you feel you would be happy to see in the position of mayor.”
To help Rockhampton residents decide on who to vote for in the upcoming poll, the Country Caller has compiled a brief biography on every one of the record-breaking 17 candidates, with links to their online campaign platforms.
*Candidates are listed in the order that they appear on the Electoral Commission Queensland website.
Bringing a highly unique background to Rocky’s local government, Russell Claus is a former director of planning for the US city of Oklahoma and also an executive director of the Rockhampton Regional Council. He claims to have helped to rebuild Oklahoma following the domestic terrorist bombing in 1995. At Rockhampton he’s been involved in upgrades to the city centre including the riverfront parkland and art gallery relocation. Mr Claus says he wants to “put some real beef in the Beef Capital” by establishing a national beef research centre to foster better education, technological advancement and exports.
Click here for more on Russell Claus
Tony Williams is the current Division 3 councillor for Rockhampton and oversees the administration’s infrastructure and tourism portfolios. He was born and bred in Rockhampton and has been a councillor for 16 years. He lists water security, returning the council’s budget to surplus and delivering more major sporting facilities among his aims if elected mayor. Mr Williams also seeks to pursue a feasibility study into a large scale solar farm to reduce the city’s $6.2 million power bill.
Click here for more on Tony Williams
With a background as a mechanic, teacher and central Queensland mining worker, Bronwyn Laverty-Young was the first candidate to nominate for Rockhampton mayor when the election was called. She said she wants to harness the region’s natural wonders and proximity to Queensland’s capital to better promote Rockhampton as a tourist destination. Ms Laverty-Young grew up in Gracemere and has lived in the region her whole life. She has highlighted her belief that promoting ‘work-from-home’ jobs could help support the region’s business flexibility.
Click here for more on Bronwyn Laverty-Young
Leyland Barnett, a well known local driving instructor and road safety campaigner, says his lifelong career has given him exposure and experience with the variety of industries needed to effectively manage a local government. Mr Barnett ran unsuccessfully for Rockhampton councillor in the 2012 and 2016, gaining 6 percent and 25 percent of the city’s primary vote respectively. An opponent of the proposed South Rockhampton levee bank, Mr Barnett says that if elected mayor he would address the rising council rates as well as road and footpath infrastructure in the city.
Click here for more on Leyland Barnett
Shane Latcham is the current Division 3 councillor for Rockhampton and oversees the administration’s waste and “waste to resource implementation” portfolios. A newcomer Rocky politics, Mr Latchem is currently serving his first term having been voted in at last year’s local government elections. He’s highlighted the connection of Norman Road between Parkhurst and Norman Gardens as a proud achievement during his short tenure of only eight months. In an apparent ‘back to basic’ approach, Mr Latcham has said he would focus more in the pillars of council responsibilities – water, waste, and roads – if he’s elected mayor.
Click here for more on Shane Latcham
Having run for the Queensland Parliamentary electorate of Rockhampton on the Katter Australia Party ticket, beef city local Christian Shepherd turns his attention to local politics with an extensive list of mayoral aspirations. He says he wants to “smash fees, skyrocket growth (and) unleash our economic potential”. Mr Shepherd, gained just shy of 4 percent of the primary vote in the state election, and also hopes to increase the availability of trade and administration apprenticeship opportunities across the city as a way of reducing labor costs within the Rockhampton Regional Council.
Click here for more on Christian Shepherd
Well known in Rockhampton as the city’s “fruit king”, Dominic Doblo has had several tilts at politics at federal, state and local levels, most recently gaining nearly 7 percent of the primary vote in the seat of Rockhampton at last year’s Queensland election. The rise, fall and rise again of Mr Doblo’s regional fruit empire has been well documented and few would doubt his experience as a businessman. On his latest nomination for Rockhampton mayor, the Doblo’s Farmers Markets founder is quoted as saying “I don’t want a career out of it, I just want to get something done for Rocky”. He says he would abolish tier 2 and 3 water charges, as well as the proposed levee bank if elected.
Click here for more on Dominic Doblo
A law graduate from Central Queensland University and grandson of Rockhampton cattle baron Sir Graham McCamley, Remy McCamley is a first time politics aspirant with a diverse employment background in his 33 years. He’s worked in hospitality, education, fitness and agriculture. He’s stated that among his greatest concerns for Rockhampton is the city’s declining population and what he sees as overspending by the local government administration. He says if elected, he’d aim to help boost tourism in Central Queensland and advocate for an increase in the number of flights coming to Rockhampton.
Click here for more on Remy McCamley
Donna Kirkland is the current Division 7 councillor for Rockhampton and oversees the administration’s water and “supporting a better environment” portfolios. She’s said that running for mayor of her home city of 20 years has been a long term goal. She lists environmental sustainability while cutting red tape, and jobs security, as her would-be mayoral priorities. Ms Kirkland said she’d also like to see the creation of a modern, safe city centre. By way of background, Ms Kirkland has been in business with Ultra Tune in Rockhampton for more than 30 years.
Click here for more on Donna Kirkland
Also a sitting councillor vying for the mayor’s office, Cherie Rutherford holds the Division 5 seat on the Rockhampton administration and oversees the sports, parks and public spaces portfolios. She lists growth as broadly her top priority for the city, and wants to encourage development as a means of creating jobs. Ms Rutherford also wants to improve the affordability of living in Rockhampton by addressing council rates and charges, as well as improving public amenities such as bike and footpaths, to improve the city’s liveability and attract new businesses.
Click here for more on Cherie Rutherford
With a background in Central Queensland local government, including working as an accountant and taxation officer for the Livingstone Shire Council, Rob Crow claims to have the council experience needed to become Rockhampton’s mayor. He has been heavily involved in Central Queensland lifesaving and rugby league and has also held a bookmaker’s licence for 30 years, based mainly at the city’s local Callaghan Park racetrack. Among Mr Crow’s political agendas is a Youth Engagement Policy, part of which is an ambition to bring a concert to Rockhampton every year.
Click here for more on Rob Crow
A Biloela boy who’s forged an early career in Central Queensland media, Christopher Davies is a former ABC employee, now running for mayor. Mr Davies has flagged infrastructure upgrades to the town of Mount Morgan as one of his aspirations if elected mayor, including to secure a permanent water supply to the community and developing a mining and dinosaur museum. He also says he wants to address the recurring problem of youth crime in the region.
Click here for more on Christopher Davies
Well known in the Rockhampton community as the founding pastor of the Oasis New Life Centre and CEO of Oasis Community services, John Rewald put his employment on ice in December last year to focus solely on campaigning to become his city’s mayor. Mr Rewald grew up in Moura and has lived in Rockhampton since 1998. He has worked in mining as an electrical apprentice, in safety management and mortgage broking and has also served the past six years as chaplain for the Central Queensland Capras rugby league club.
Click here for more on John Rewald
Described by local media as the “mystery out of towner“, Brett Williams is a finance manager with the Bulloo Shire Council, based at Thargomindah in the deep south west of Queensland on the South Australia and New South Wales borders. He was born in Mount Morgan. Mr Williams opted to run for Rocky mayor within only hours before nominations closed. He has an accounting degree from Central Queensland University and has previously worked as a labourer and army medic. He says he’ push to improve Rockhampton’s road and wastewater infrastructure if elected.
Click here for more on Brett Williams
A teacher by profession and long time Central Queensland local, Miranda Broadbent has worked in education for 25 years in both the government and independent sectors. She’s served in managerial treasury positions and, outside of work, serves on two health service committees. She is a regular charity donor and advocate, and a volunteer for the Queensland Country Women’s Association. She is also a keen public speaker and member of the Capricorn Toastmasters Club.
Click here for more on Miranda Broadbent
CHRIS “PINNEAPPLE” HOOPER
The would-be accidental mayor of Rockhampton, Chris “Pinneapple” Hooper was next in line for the office when former administrator Margaret Strelow resigned amid a local government corruption probe. State legislation allowed for the candidate with the second highest number of mayoral votes to ascend to the position, but a backflip on that rule is what triggered this by-election. With a background as a bank officer, a cleaner, a property investor and tourism operator, Mr Hooper says his priority as mayor would be to advocate for small business and hold higher government to account.
Click here for more on Chris Hooper
Nyree Johnson works as a workforce analyst in the energy sector and has a background as a business owner, writer, ambassador and scout leader. Ms Johnson grew up in Rockhampton and spent time living in Longreach and Brisbane before returning to her home city. She describes herself as having a “no nonsense” approach and would “minimise unnecessary change” if elected mayor. She lists facilitating the growth of Central Queensland’s tourism sector and reducing rates increases to below consumer index prices among her political ambitions for the city.
Click here for more on Nyree Johnson