Maitland's first lady ready for challenge

Being Maitland mayor is a full time role in Loretta Baker’s eyes, with the Labor Party member resigning from her job as a nurse to focus on her new position leading the city. 

ON WITH THE JOB: Loretta Bakes says she's "excited, proud, humbled" at her election success as Maitland's new mayor. Picture: Simone De Peak

ON WITH THE JOB: Loretta Bakes says she's "excited, proud, humbled" at her election success as Maitland's new mayor. Picture: Simone De Peak

Maitland’s first female mayor said the role “required her full attention”, which led to her giving notice at her job at East Maitland Community Health.   

“It’s something new and different to me, despite my time as a councillor,” Cr Baker, who has worked in health for more than 30 years, said. She’ll remain on the casual list for 12 months.

“It’ll be very hard for me to walk away from health (work). It’s been a very big part of my life.”

Cr Baker was officially elected on Wednesday evening when nearest rival, Independent Philip Penfold, rang her to concede defeat.

Prior to distribution preferences, Cr Baker held a lead of about 1500 votes over Cr Penfold.

Cr Penfold received an influx of preference votes from mayoral candidate Ken Wethered, but the majority of the Greens’ and Liberal Party’s preferences flowed to Labor.

Cr Penfold declined requests for comment. 

Following her election, Cr Baker said she was “very grateful to the people of Maitland”. 

“I’m excited, proud, humbled – a mixture of all those things,” she said. 

She said being a part of Maitland’s history by being named the city’s first female mayor was “just a bonus”.

Maitland MP Jenny Aitichson said it was “a dream come true” to see women at the helm of Maitland’s local, state and federal governments. 

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Ms Aitichson, who was the foundation president of the Women’s Network Hunter (NSW) formed in 2005, said it was “something we’ve been working for for quite some time.” 

With the mayor decided, councillors across the wards were announced on Thursday. 

North ward saw the tightest tussle for a position, with a mere 94 votes separating Independent Michael Cooper and the Penfold Team’s Mike Yarrington, with latter victorious. 

He’ll be joined in that ward by Labor’s Robert Aitchison and Liberal Mitchell Griffin.

Donald Ferris gets the call up in central ward after Cr Baker’s election as mayor.

Liberal Sally Halliday and Independent Philip Penfold take up the remaining two seats.

In the east, Penfold Team member Peter Garnham and Labor’s Ben Whiting will resume their places on council alongside newly elected Liberal Kanchan Ranadive.

Another Liberal, Ben Mitchell, will join council in west ward alongside experienced campaigners Nicole Penfold (Penfold Team) and Henry MesKauskas (Labor).