What a difference a day (or a fortnight) makes! I have no job, a house that I have completely pulled apart (what better way to spend isolation than cleaning), no motivation and dogs that spend the day barking and driving me crazy, BUT we have a new council. The sweetest icing on the worst cake ever baked.

This week myself, along with over 2000 other residents sat down with a glass of wine, (it’s isolation so there are no days or times anymore), to watch and rejoice not only a first, live streamed council meeting, but hearing our new mayor and deputy mayor both speak to the Southern Downs residents.

A WELCOME FACE FOR MANY ON THE SOUTHERN DOWNS – MAYOR VICTOR PENNISI

Now I will be the first to admit the meeting was not without its hiccups, but I have served on a lot of committees in my lifetime and never once have I attended a perfect meeting, especially a first meeting as a group.  I don’t care if you have been on council for 16 years or 4 years, when you are suddenly at the helm, things are a little different.  And don’t forget, the meeting was held with our Councillors in two different locations – there is no such thing as normal or perfect anymore.

One thing is for sure in my mind, regardless of the ‘little stuff’, the meeting left me with a feeling of hope; and that is not an easy thing to find at present.

Four years ago, even though I did not vote for the new mayor at the time, I decided, like so many on the Southern Downs, to give the new council a break and pray they were there for the entire region. It didn’t take long to work out that this was not going to happen, and division was about to be a word heard not just on the Granite Belt, but throughout so many other towns and villages.

There were times when it felt like we wouldn’t survive the entire four years, but as a region we found a strength that I didn’t think was possible. Residents from places across the Southern Downs found a common thread, that enabled them to speak from their hearts and make sure their voices were heard by everyone and especially by those considering running for the next council election. No longer were residents going to sit back and accept that council knew what was best for the region, they were going to make sure they voted for people who would listen before all else.

The beauty of a democracy is that we all have a say, and at the end of the day the majority (DO NOT SPROUT PERCENTAGES AT ME) make the decision. So here we are…..a new Mayor, a new Deputy Mayor, four new Councillors and three incumbents.

Do I believe this is a perfect council?  NO.

Do I believe that we got the mix completely right?  NO.

But I respect the decision that the Southern Downs has made.

Do I believe that this council has the potential to bring our region back together and take us along as passengers on the journey, instead of leaving us as backseat drivers?  ABSOLUTELY.  The ball is now completely in their court.

I think the next four years will be about rebuilding;  rebuilding relationships, rebuilding our communities, rebuilding our region. It is not going to be easy.  There is so much baggage left behind from the former mayor, but I am full or hope – after all, it springs eternal, doesn’t it?