By CAITLIN CROWLEY
TOOWOOMBA has a new Mayor and Council has an opportunity to “reset as a group” according to Geoff McDonald, who was promoted to the top job by his colleagues after a heated meeting today.
The vote to select Paul Antonio’s successor exposed deep rifts within Council ranks after veteran Councillor Carol Taylor (pictured below) used her pitch for Mayor to highlight sexism and what she described as “factions” within the group.
Councillor Taylor said she’s been treated equally everywhere she’s ever worked, but “not here.”
“I believe that our gender diversity is not valued to date and I’m very disappointed about that,” Taylor said.
“I never found any sort of discrimination until I came here to this Council.
“Factions are not appropriate on this Council – they have been there – it’s not appropriate.”
“Our community is special, it’s diverse and it’s unique and it deserves Councillors who are inclusive and work as a team for the common good.
“Our culture in Council is not great and whilst we will always have different ideas, until we value everyone at this table – we are falling short of what our community deserves.”
Geoff McDonald, who becomes Mayor after 10 years as a Toowoomba Councillor, hinted at the need for cultural change in his speech before the vote, mentioning the need to be “inclusive” three times.
He said the change in mayoralty provided the opportunity for elected representatives to “reset as a group”.
“We need to be supportive of each other, be willing to have robust, inclusive debate, with a clear focus on the best outcomes for our people. Inclusive, robust and clear on our future,” McDonald said.
“We need to ensure all council staff are valued and empowered and feel safe to be the change makers of our organisation and be confident to bring forward ideas on how council can improve.”
All Councillors except Carol Taylor voted in favour of Geoff McDonald becoming the region’s next Mayor.
When asked by the Caller what he was going to do to bring the group together in light of Cr Taylor’s concerning comments, Geoff McDonald acknowledged that “opportunities and areas of improvement are there”.
“The benefit of change in any organisation is the opportunity to improve and there is absolutely no doubt that the elected representatives, each and every one of them are absolutely, totally committed to doing their absolute best,” he said.
“We’re in this – we’re in this for the community and we’re in this together.”
McDonald said he had “never met a greater group of people” who were “fearlessly committed to doing their best for the community”.
“That’s our promise to the region and that’s our promise to the people within the organisation, that’s our promise to the people right across our community,” he said.
Mayor McDonald indicated next Friday July 28 is likely when Council will meet to appoint a new Deputy Mayor and a new Councillor will fill the vacant spot by September’s Ordinary Meeting at the latest.
The changes were triggered by the resignation of former Mayor Paul Antonio, who announced his retirement from local government earlier this month.