By Kath Gannaway
Veteran Walling Ward councillor Len Cox will lead Yarra Ranges Council as mayor for the next year.
In a career that has spanned four decades, it will be Cr Cox’s sixth time at the helm.
He was elected to Lilydale Council in 1982 and, except for two years in exile during the amalgamation, has an unbroken record.
At the other end of the spectrum, in his first term on council, Cr Tony Stevenson will take on the duties of deputy mayor.
Both were the only nominees for their respective roles and were elected unanimously at the council meeting on Tuesday 14 November.
Nominating Cr Cox, Cr Jim Child spoke of his impressive record over many years but paid particular tribute to his leadership as mayor during the 2009 bushfires.
“When I think back to that significant event, when we lost 13 members of our community, we had a leader in the council at that time in Cr Cox who was exemplary,” he said.
He addressed Cr Cox personally, saying: “It was an outstanding tribute to you, the way you handled yourself, and the way you represented council”.
Cr Cox said it was a great honour to lead a municipality such as Yarra Ranges.
“When I think about the council today, it may sound biased, but I think it could be called the best council in the state of Victoria … maybe even further afield,” he said.
He said the council was well-run with good staff led by CEO Glenn Patterson, and described the current council as “very bright”, intelligent, consensual and hard-working.
“That’s what you need in a council,” he said.
He also paid tribute to outgoing mayor Noel Cliff saying he had left big boots for him to fill.
He said Cr Cliff had ran the meetings fairly, giving everyone a chance to speak and had been a terrific ambassador for council.
He said he is a person who mixes easily with people.
“People genuinely love him,” he said. “He talks with people, not at people, and that really is a great skill.”
Cr Stevenson was nominated by Cr Fiona McAllister who said she and her fellow councillors had been impressed by his dedication, desire to understand local council and his whole-of-municipality focus.
Cr Stevenson who represents Chandler Ward said he was looking forward to supporting the mayor with whom he had a very good relationship, and to working with a council he described as ‘collegiate’.
“We don’t always agree, but we do work together in a constructive way,” he said.
“I have also enjoyed working with a very effective council team,” he added.
Cr Cox told the Mail his personal goals were the same as they had always been.
“It may sound corny, but my goal is to do something for the community. You can’t always do as much as you might want, but that’s it really,” he said.
He said he was looking forward to a busy year.
“I like to be doing things; like meeting people, like coming in here and working with the staff and I particularly like working with the council.
“I’m imagining it will be a busy year and I am very happy if it is.”