By Bonny Burrows
It’s been a long time coming but community favourite Collin Ross has finally been elected as Cardinia Shire’s mayor.
The popular Central Ward councillor, known for his opposition to rate rises and excessive council spending, will lead the shire for the next 12 months.
He will be supported by the Deputy Mayor and predecessor Brett Owen.
Cr Ross’ appointment on 13 November comes in his 10th year as a councillor and follows his decision last year to withdraw his mayoral nomination to prevent “unhealthy divisions” from fostering within the council.
During last year’s mayoral election, Cr Ross expressed concerns about the “political” nature of the “divisive” internal mayoral election process and the alliances formed to “manipulate” the outcome.
“I’ve had councillors tell me that I would make a terrific mayor but then in the background they simultaneously form all of these alliances with each other in exchange for promises,” Cr Ross said at the time.
“It’s just like the show Survivor. The alliance always wins because people always look out for themselves.”
But this year Cr Ross received the majority of support from his peers over fellow nominee Cr Leticia Wilmot to lead the council.
The Pakenham man of 20 years and father of four couldn’t hold back the tears as he made the opening speech as mayor, with his much-loved family cheering on from the chambers.
He described his excitement at his appointment as that of “a Richmond supporter on Grand Final week”.
“It’s good to see my fellow councillors have the courage to support me to be mayor.
“Sometimes in the public life when the vote comes internally it doesn’t end up being what the public would want,” Cr Ross said.
“But I will always support doing the right thing first and I try never to get personal with people.”
Going into his 10th year in council, the newly-minted mayor said he wouldn’t be where he was today without his “Team Ross” – his wife Carmel, children Vanessa, Daniel, Caleb, Zhimei, their partners and his grandchildren Rachel and Hannah.
They also had sat through a decade of council and the pressures that came with a public profile.
“In public life people don’t sort of know who is behind the scenes, who is part of your team,” an emotional Cr Ross said.
“But I always say, if you go to war, go to war with my family.”
For Cr Ross, being named mayor of Cardinia Shire was an “even bigger” honour than being a councillor.
He said that residents had welcomed him with warm arms from day one “and I’m going to give it my best shot to honour that community”.
Cr Ross’ focus for the next 12 months will be building people’s connection with the council.
He has also floated the possibility of having community dinners with local groups and residents, “so over a meal, people get to share their ideas”.
“Rather than the council be an establishment on the hill, I want us to be seen as people here for our community,” Cr Ross said.
Cr Ross said he was looking forward to working with Deputy Mayor Brett Owen and his fellow councillors over the next year.
“We may differ on issues but we’re always respectful,” he said.