LOVE and camaraderie were in the air as veteran councillor Colin Hampton was confirmed as Frankston’s new mayor despite “a difficult 12 months” between councillors.
A 5-2 majority of councillors voted at a public council meeting on Thursday 9 November to elect the North-East ward councillor as the mayor to succeed Cr Brian Cunial for the next 12 months.
It will be the second time for Cr Hampton in the mayor’s chair. He was previously mayor in 2008-09.
Cr Cunial admitted his 12-month mayoral term had not been all smooth sailing but said he is proud councillors have agreed to a strategy plan for the rest of the council term.
“I guess I’ve got to be realistic — we haven’t always got on very well and we haven’t always done everything particularly well for the entire term,” he said at the meeting.
Cr Cunial and council CEO Dennis Hovenden named themselves in September as complainants to the Local Government Inspectorate about “governance concerns”, triggering the Labor state government to appoint a monitor to oversee Frankston Council meetings.
The person tasked with monitoring council meetings and reporting back to Local Government Minister Marlene Kairouz has not yet been appointed more than two months after the state government announced a monitor would be heading to Frankston.
Longtime colleagues Cr Sandra Mayer and Cr Cunial were chief among the cheerleaders for Cr Hampton to become mayor, describing years of friendship while working as councillors.
“Nine years of friendship and you certainly did take me under your wing from the first day I started and I modelled my mayoralty on you and I’ve done it twice now,” Cr Mayer said.
“I thought you did a tremendous job and I think you’re a great statesman and, like Cr Cunial, you’ve just got that natural ability.
“I’m so excited to have you in the role. I’ve seen you do it before and you did an amazing job and you’re going to be fantastic again. Congratulations — love you lots.”
Cr Cunial agreed, saying: “You’re a great bloke, Col.”
Crs Kris Bolam, Cunial, Hampton, Lillian O’Connor, Michael O’Reilly voted to install Cr Hampton as mayor.
Crs Glenn Aitken and Steve Toms voted for Cr Toms.
Cr Quinn McCormack left the council chamber during the vote without indicating a preference for either mayoral candidate.
Cr Hampton pledged to bring councillors together during his mayoral term. He said the coming 12 months will be vital for Frankston since there will be a state election next year.
The new mayor also predicted there will be a federal election and said he will spearhead lobbying efforts to secure money for the Frankston region from both major political parties in the lead up to any elections since both the state seat of Frankston and federal seat of Dunkley are marginal, held by state Labor MP Paul Edbrooke and federal Liberal MP Chris Crewther respectively.
Cr Hampton, a Labor Party member and former union enterprise bargaining agreement negotiator, said he believed negotiation will be vital in the months ahead to ensure state and federal money flows into Frankston.
“Together with these major redevelopments of our city, a key priority of mine and this council is tackling unemployment so we can create better and more prosperous outcomes for the residents of Frankston,” he said.
“It is an unfortunate reality that Frankston has one of the highest levels of unemployment in Victoria, however we are committed to advocating to both levels of government to deliver more jobs to our community.”
Cr Bolam congratulated Cr Hampton for his elevation once again to the mayoralty.
“You old bugger, in the chair again,” he said.
Cr Hampton joked he thought Cr Bolam would call him “bulldozer”, a nickname bandied about within council circles linked to the new mayor’s uncompromising style.
The Municipal Association of Victoria ordered Cr Hampton last year to apologise to two council officers after an independent panel found he breached councillor code of conduct clauses for “aggressive” behaviour towards two council staff members.
Cr O’Reilly called Cr Hampton “a fantastic bloke [with] a great sense of humour”.
“The one thing I’ll say about Colin Hampton is that you cannot dissuade him when he has his mind set on something. There is nothing that will change his view,” Cr O’Reilly said. “It doesn’t matter what the issue is and whose opinion is different, you will stick by your guns because it’s what you believe in.”
Councillors thanked outgoing deputy mayor Toms for his dedication to the role, including his attendance at “more than 250 functions” in a year.
“When I first encountered you, I didn’t know how to take you. To be honest, I didn’t particularly like you at the very beginning and that’s my honesty coming out,” Cr Bolam said. “But as I’ve got to know you throughout the year I’ve been so impressed by how you’ve conducted yourself as a first-year councillor.”
Cr Lillian O’Connor was appointed deputy mayor in a 5-4 vote.
Crs Cunial, Hampton, Mayer, O’Connor and O’Reilly voted for Cr O’Connor. Crs Aitken, Bolam, McCormack and Toms voted for Cr Aitken to be deputy mayor.
Cr Aitken said he will be introducing a notice of motion next year pushing for a return to the 1980s-style of the mayoralty rotating from ward to ward.
“It was a more mannerly and gentlemanly system and it provided an atmosphere where competition and the discussions behind the scenes did not thrive because it was simply a given that it would travel from one person to another year by year,” he said.
Cr Aitken said Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass had shown concern about transparency within councils in a report earlier this year and he believed the appointment of mayors and deputy mayors “should be as open to scrutiny as anything else in council”.
“At the moment, to be quite honest, it’s shrouded in backroom deals,” Cr Aitken said.
“If people could see what happens behind the scenes I don’t think they’d be very impressed, to be quite honest.”