Peter Blackmore on elections, local government, a new mayor and the scourge of social media

With my tenure as mayor drawing to a close, it’s time for me to personally say thank you and reflect on my years at Maitland’s helm and share how the public, this great city and dynamic council have shaped me as a human being.

While I am more than confident that incoming mayor Loretta Baker will do Maitland proud, it must be said that every day will be a challenge, a learning curve, a privilege and a humbling experience.

Leading a city is a roller coaster. From the highs of securing funding for community projects to the lows of spiteful election campaigns or controversial council decisions.

I’ve had my fair share of admirers and haters, supporters and naysayers, all of whom I must thank as they have helped strengthen my resolve.

It probably sounds like a funny line but my staff always said I’d go to the opening of an envelope, and I would.

It has been so rewarding to get out in the community and meet those unsung volunteers who don’t seek recognition but who are there to help this city and its people, whether it’s during times of fire or flood.

It’s a Maitland spirit that’s like no other and it’s what makes this city great.

I get embarrassed talking about myself and that’s why I say that shaping Maitland has been a team effort, the citizens, the business people, the charities, community groups, councillors and council staff who put their shoulders to the wheel.

I don’t want to see that camaraderie lost. Cr Baker now has the opportunity to keep these links secure. My biggest fear with the wrong leader, was that we would revisit 1997 when there was so much division between councillors and staff that the council was sacked. It has taken years to get that overall team cohesion back.

One of the down sides to this election campaign has been social media.

I have been disappointed with some of the posts and the usual commentary from certain folk. They had an opportunity to come forward and run for council. If you want to be critical then stand for council and have a go.

It’s a different ball game with social media in the mix and sometimes it can be hurtful.

To the new councillors and mayor, you will have arguments in the chamber but when you walk out and close that door, that’s when the arguments stop.

So thank you Maitland. It has been an honour and a privilege. Now it’s time to fish.

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