TWELVE candidates have nominated to stand for Gunnedah Shire Council at the upcoming election, and the Leaderhas profiled each of them.
Three members of the previous council elected in 2016 are not standing for re-election.
Councillor Gae Swain, Gunnedah's first female and longest-serving mayor, is retiring after 30 years representing Gunnedah.
Councillor Owen Hasler is putting more than 20 years of council service behind him, and John Campbell is also retiring after five years on council.
Voters will head to the polls on Saturday, December 4, to elect nine councillors to represent the community.
Read about each candidate below in ballot order.
While she has spent most of her life caring for our four-legged friends, semi-retired vet and current councillor Ann Luke will be firmly focused on the people of Gunnedah if she is re-elected in December.
Cr Luke said her top concern was increasing the commerce and business opportunities in Gunnedah to keep people in the town.
"I want businesses here, I want businesses to do well, I want them to make money and work hard," she said.
As a supporter of both coal and farming Cr Luke said she was set on providing the best of both worlds for Gunnedah but ensuring that the two industries could responsibly co-exist together.
Reflecting on the success of the current council in introducing fluoride, upgrading roads and improving the town's general liveability, Cr Luke said she was "here to stay" to make sure these projects were maintained and improved into the future.
"You've got to keep on working at it," she said
"We've got some really top people in council which means things can get done."
WELL known Breeza farmer and anti-coal and gas advocate Peter Wills is hoping to win a spot on the new Gunnedah council.
Mr Wills is no stranger to campaigning, having stood as a Greens candidate in the 2017 New England by-election and as an Independent for the Upper House at the 2019 NSW election.
The North West Alliance member, who owns a farm on the Liverpool Plains, is a vocal opponent of the Hunter Gas Pipeline and has also been outspoken about land use conflicts involving BHP and Shenhua.
"We as a community have approached the council on issues like coal seam gas, looking for help and advocacy from them," he said.
"With risks to agriculture, community and our water, fundamental issues to many in the community and directly impacted landholders, and our community have had our council chamber doors slammed in our face.
"It's disgraceful, and clearly time for new community representation."
At just 33, Murray O'Keefe has already spent five years on council, but there are plenty more things the young father would like to achieve as part of local government.
With two kids, aged just 18 months and four months, he has an invested interest in Gunnedah's future, and there are a few issues he would like to tackle should he be re-elected for another term.
"The acute shortage of GPs, that's the biggest crisis facing Gunnedah at present," he said.
"It's unfortunate it's not something directly in the sphere of control of council or else we'd fix it, but we're doing everything we can within our sphere of influence to work hard to solve that, and certainly that's unfinished business.
"The other pressing issue is the lack of housing stock which is contributing to a lack of workforce in our town."
He said the accomplishments of the council over the past five years stand as an example of his experience and qualifications.
He also shared some lesser known information about himself with voters, revealing he was an avid water polo player throughout his days in high school and university.
David Moses has served one term on council, but his service to the community extends well beyond that as he has been part of Fire and Rescue NSW team for 46 years.
All of that time has been spent in Gunnedah, and despite being 69-years-old he is still the fire technician at Gunnedah Fire Protection - which he owns.
But he is keen to help the community as a councillor too, and is proud of some of the achievements of the organisation over the past five years.
He highlighted the constructions of Livvi's Place Inclusive Playground and returning Chandos Street from a one-way to two-way street as two of the things he's been happiest with.
Cr Moses wants to help solve the housing and employment problems next term if he's elected, and he said that goes beyond Gunnedah itself.
"I'm not standing just for Gunnedah, Gunnedah shire doesn't stop at the city limits, it's a full shire not just the town itself," he said.
"The villages are just as important as Gunnedah is."
Something about Cr Moses that isn't related to council or fire and rescue, which he believes many people don't know, is that he's been heavily involved with junior rugby league in the town for the past 10 years.
In his first term as mayor Jamie Chaffey has had to guide the town through a horrific drought and COVID-19, but he had no hesitation throwing his hand up to be part of council again.
A political brawler and strong advocate for local businesses, Cr Chaffey has been at the forefront of most council initiatives in the last five years, most notable of which was trying to secure funding for a new Gunnedah hospital.
His focus for the next four years will, if elected, centre around the skills shortage in town and problems that is causing.
"[There's a] lack of skilled and unskilled workforce to fill critical positions throughout all industries within the shire such as health, education and training, age care, childcare, and the list goes on," he said.
"As a councillor I will be committed to action all endorsed actions within our Housing Strategy, Economic Strategy, Destination Management Strategy, Operational plan."
Promoting Gunnedah as a good place to raise a family is also a focus of his, as he looks to continue increasing the population - bucking the trend for regional towns.
When he's not busy on council duties or running his other ventures, the husband, father and grandfather is an admirer of birds.
Describing herself as someone who lives for Gunnedah and the community, Councillor Colleen Fuller is hoping to add a few more achievements to her 17 year stint with Gunnedah Shire Council if she is re-elected in December.
Encouraging women to join local government, increasing crime prevention and reducing the impact of flooding from Blackjack Creek are just some of the achievements on Cr Fuller's resume.
But hoping to be the "people's person", this time around her focus is firmly set on getting more doctors to Gunnedah and helping the town's next generation of leaders.
"You need a balance in council," she said.
"I'm always happy to take on extra work so that a new councillor coming in doesn't have a hit of committee workloads."
Cr Fuller said with her on board she was confident council could improve the liveability of Gunnedah which she attributed to her no corners cut approach to budgets.
"I came into a council that was very broke and I'm coming up to this election with a council that's very financial," she said.
"I treat the ratepayers' money the same way I want my own to be treated."
AS a local solicitor, Gunnedah Chamber of Commerce president and Juliana McArthur makes decisions that affect others on a daily basis.
Now, she'd like to put her understanding of the need for accountability to further use by contributing her 20 years of experience in law and business to council.
If elected, finding solutions for the local skilled labour shortage would be high on her agenda.
"We need skilled people for a range of jobs from agriculture, to doctors and other professional services, to manufacturing and mining/extractive industries," she said.
"To address this, we need solutions for local skills training, business investment, increased housing availability and to showcase our culture, natural beauty and tourism. We want people to come and stay here, including our young people."
A wife to Peter and a mother to two teenage sons, Hugh, 17 and Alexander, 15, Mrs McArthur is also a volunteer on numerous community organisations including the Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Society and The Rotary Club of Gunnedah.
As a veteran of the local agriculture scene and member of multiple committees throughout the community, Robert Hoddle is a recognisable name around Gunnedah.
The Gunnible Pastoral Company owner is a previous president of the Gunnedah Show Society, has held positions with the Cattle Council of Australia and at a state level he has previously been a councillor on the NSW Farmers Association and its various committees. He was also recently a director of Citrus Australia Limited.
He is now hoping to bring that wealth of experience to local council.
On top of helping address the GP shortage and housing issues, he said council needs to put some effort into fixing up the town centre and planning for the future.
"There needs to be further investment by Council in landscaping the main street, recognising that we live in a very hot climate and we need ample shade and green spaces," he said.
"With careful planning, following the lead of towns like Mildura, improvements to the access and the parklands of the Namoi River could provide a wonderful place for the community to enjoy."
Lobbying for a higher quality of education to be offered is also something he plans to do if elected.
KATE McGrath believes it's time to bring some fresh leadership and more diversity to Gunnedah Shire Council.
Bringing her extensive background in community services, disability, aged care and Aboriginal organisations to the table, the 32-year-old hopes to be an honest voice on council.
She has become heavily involved in addressing the health crisis currently facing Gunnedah, and has spent the majority of her working life supporting the "disengaged and disenfranchised".
She listed securing adequate doctors and building a strong early childhood education workforce as among her top priorities if elected.
"I would really like to bring in more transparency in decision making, and more opportunities for people to have a direct voice in how decisions are made," she added.
After years managing the Salvation Army store in Gunnedah, Wendy Eriksen is ready to give back to the community in a different way.
The 58-year-old, who was born in the region and moved permanently to Gunnedah 12 years ago, is standing for council.
On top of having held a variety of positions, including president, at the Rotary Club, she has spent several years sitting on council working groups and feels it is time to take the next step.
"I think that there are more women needed in local government, and there are a few issues that are my focuses," she said.
"I'm pro-small business, when I first came to Gunnedah we had a small business, that's still running and I branched out. I'm also pro-mining if it's done correctly."
She is passionate about creating equality for men in the domestic violence sector, and wants to see more funding allocated to address the problem.
In her spare time, the mother and grandmother said she holds a passion for philanthropy.
While his last name might be Silver, Michael will be going for gold in the upcoming Gunnedah election.
With a strong interest in financial management and strategic planning Mr Silver said his top priority would be creating a sustainable future for Gunnedah.
"We need to be supportive of the industries and economic activity that we have at the moment but we also need to be very mindful about how we set the community up moving forward," he said.
No stranger to the needs of the Gunnedah community Mr Silver has devoted 43 years to local government authorities and was previously the Director of Cleaning and Environment Services with the council.
"I've been involved in the forefront of many community infrastructure projects from aged care to childcare, sport and recreation, and things of that nature so I believe I spread across the breadth of the community," he said.
As the previous Director of Cricket NSW and Australia, Mr Silver said he understood the importance of corporate operations and hopes to put some runs on the board for Gunnedah.
Current Councillor and Deputy Mayor Robert Hook will return as a candidate this election with a big vision for Gunnedah.
Among a long list, some of Cr Hook's top priorities are supporting youth development, securing affordable housing, resolving the medical crisis, and revitalising local tourism to attract more people to Gunnedah.
"I see Gunnedah Shire as a place where our youth choose to live because they can get a job, have affordable housing, good sporting facilities, shopping and social activities in a vibrant and safe community," he said.
Cr Hooke said he wished to continue the exceptional work of council in keeping businesses afloat and unemployment low.
With the town on the map for mining, Cr Hooke said he was focused on creating more employment in secondary industries, like agriculture and the security of the "Right to Farm", to soften the consequences of when the mining sector eventually withdraws.
With his past experience and professionalism Cr Hooke said he was sure that "together we can make a difference".
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