Air of change surrounds Maitland’s new leaders following history-making council election

Changing of the guard: Kanchan Ranadive (second from left) is one of a batch of new councillors who will lead the city. Picture: Lachlan Leeming.
Changing of the guard: Kanchan Ranadive (second from left) is one of a batch of new councillors who will lead the city. Picture: Lachlan Leeming.

It’s not quite a case of out with the old and in with the new for Maitland City Council.

However, following last weekend’s election, there is an undeniable air of change about our new local government leaders.

Six new faces will be among those sitting down at the next meeting of council, which will comprise four Labor councillors, four Liberals, and four Penfold Team members, headed by Maitland’s first female mayor, Labor’s Loretta Baker. 

It’s a blend that will be tasked with leading Maitland City Council into a new era following the retirement of Peter Blackmore after two decades in the top job. 

Among those making way for the new faces will be Cr Bob Geoghegan, who was unsuccessful in his attempt to become mayor after 17 years as a councillor. 

Cr Geoghegan, who ran as the Liberal Party’s endorsed mayoral candidate, did say he was “very satisfied” with four Liberal councillors being elected. 

“Obviously I’m disappointed I wasn’t elected mayor, but I’m looking forward to watching them (Liberal councillors) do a good job,” he said. 

Outgoing councillor Bob Geoghegan.

Outgoing councillor Bob Geoghegan.

Cr Geoghegan, who chose not to run as a councillor as well as mayor, said he had no regrets about the decision.

“After 17 years on council, my job was to convince people I was the right person for mayor,” he said.

“I wasn’t interested in having a fall back position.” 

The Liberals have done their bit for diversity, contributing two of the four women on the new council, while 25-year-old councillor elect Ben Mitchell could be the youngest to ever serve.

In addition to that, east ward’s Kanchan Ranadive is likely Maitland’s first Indian-born councillor. 

For all four Liberal councillors – Kanchan Ranadive, Sally Halliday, Ben Mitchell and Mitchell Griffin – it’ll be their first term on council. 

They’ll be joined by fellow debutantes Mike Yarrington (Penfold Team) and Donald Ferris (Labor).

Alongside Cr Geoghegan, Brian Bourke and Ken Wethered will also leave council after unsuccessful mayoral campaigns. Arch Humphrey and Steve Procter have joined mayor Peter Blackmore in stepping down. 

“There’s a lot of fresh faces,” Cr Geoghegan said. 

Cr Geoghegan said the results, particularly in the mayoral race, showed the importance of preferencing, with a strong contingent of Liberal preferences aiding Loretta Baker in her election as Maitland mayor.  

Labor and the Liberal Party agreed to preference one another in third place for the election, with Cr Geoghegan confident the new mayor will take successfully to the role. 

“I think that Loretta will do a good job,” he said.