NSW mayors to get gurus

By Paul Hemsley

The Local Government and Shires Association of New South Wales (LGSA) will mentor newly elected and returning mayors to help them understand the complex inner workings of government.

The first program of its kind in Australia, the support program hopes provides mayors a way of seeking advice from the LGSA following the recent NSW local government elections.

Former North Sydney Council Mayor Genia McCaffery and former Moree Plains Shire Council Mayor Mike Montgomery are among the veterans selected to impart their wisdom and counsel, both having previously served as presidents of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA).

Some of the issues expected to draw mayoral interest are complex planning issues and legislative structures.

So far, the LGSA has budgeted for the mayoral mentoring program to run as a six month trial.

Shires Association of NSW President Ray Donald said the idea for a mentoring program came from a member of staff at the LGSA following enquiries from different mayors about aspects of their jobs.

“It’s completely transparent unless the mayor wants to talk in confidence with the mentor,” Mr Donald said, noting that having an experienced person was “a better way” to provide such information.

He said the LGSA will confer with the two mentors to find out the main types of enquiries received to see if such information can help local government associations from other states.

“It’s reasonably unique in what we’re doing and I’m not sure if other states are doing it or not. We’ve taken this on to do it on our own, we haven’t looked at what other states are doing,” Mr Donald said.

Ms McCaffery said mayors play a pivotal role in shaping local communities.

“After 17 years on council, I’m still passionate about the NSW Local Government sector and I’m pleased to be able to use my experience and expertise to assist other Mayors and provide sound advice so they can best meet the needs of their communities,” said Ms McCaffery.

Mr Montgomery said there was a large number of councilors becoming first-time mayors, which brings an “expectation of greater leadership, accountability and exposure to the other two spheres of government”.

“As mentors, we are here to talk through any questions and offer advice so that current Mayors gain a clearer understanding of the political landscape in which they are working, as well as provide confidential advice on the inner workings of Local Government in NSW,” Mr Montgomery said.

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