By CAITLIN CROWLEY
AFTER more than 41 years in local government, Toowoomba Mayor Paul Antonio will stand down and retire from politics at midday July 21.
The self-described “farm boy from Millmerran” made the emotional announcement at Toowoomba’s council chambers this morning, supported by family and friends including former Groom MP John McVeigh and Lockyer Valley Mayor Tanya Milligan (pictured below).
Fighting back tears, Antonio said it was a sad time for him but that he was proud of what he had achieved, including helping to bring the Olympics to Brisbane through his role as Deputy Chair of the Council of Mayors South East Queensland.
“I think it’s fair to say this last term has been fairly difficult for me personally,” Antonio said.
“I believe in team work and I hope that continues in the future, but there comes a time in life when you realise it’s time to move on and this is my time.
“My family have been having a bit of a discussion about my health and the impact of where we are at the moment and I made a very clear decision and I’m very happy with that decision – very happy indeed.”
Antonio’s departure will trigger several changes within Toowoomba Regional Council, with Deputy Mayor Geoff McDonald automatically becoming Acting Mayor at 12.01pm July 21, before a Special Meeting to formally appoint a new Mayor.
If McDonald becomes Mayor his colleagues will also have to appoint a new Deputy Mayor from within their ranks.
Within 14 days of a new Mayor being appointed, the CEO must invite nominations to fill the vacant councillor position.
“Nominations for the vacant councillor positions must be invited from any person who is qualified to be a councillor and from each person who was a candidate for election at the last local government election,” TRC CEO Brian Pidgeon said.
Councillors will have the final say on who fills the vacancy, with a vote to be held within two months of July 21.
There’s only eight months until next year’s local government elections in mid-March but Antonio said he had not planned the early resignation.
“I will not have any say in who becomes the next mayor of Toowoomba – I will at the next election – but at this point in time it’s entirely up to those 10 people who are left sitting in the boardroom,” he said.
“I’m not going to comment at all on how it ought to be done or what ought to happen.”
Lockyer Valley Mayor Tanya Milligan said it was a sad day for the community and that she had looked to Paul Antonio for assistance and guidance.
“41 years in any career is a mammoth effort, let alone 41 years in local government,” Milligan said.
“Paul has been an amazing mentor and exceptional friend.”
John McVeigh also thanked the Mayor for his decades of service to the community.
“41 years is basically all of my adult life – I’ve known this man having those leadership positions in our region,” McVeigh said.
“I have seen Paul Antonio lead this community in good times and in bad.
“All of us have seen the Mayor promote the region here locally, statewide, nationally and of course internationally as well.
“I’ve seen him walk the streets of Toowoomba with Prime Ministers, always promoting our region – always asking for the best for our region.
“Most importantly, in my own humble opinion, I have seen him assisting people, assisting individuals, assisting families in ways that many of us will never know, nor should we.”
Antonio was first elected to the former Millmerran Shire Council back in 1982 and will be returning to his “home community” in retirement.
“I would dearly love, it (Millmerran) being the camp oven capital, to somehow get the community to come together and build a museum for camp ovens,” he said.
“I love the land – I live in the most beautiful spot you’d find anywhere, it’s a peaceful spot. I love my family, love my Angus cows – they come and talk to me regularly in the backyard so I’ll be very happy.”