Mayor - City of Mandurah
Rhys Williams is Mandurah's new mayor.
Mr Williams' campaign slogan of a "new story" for Mandurah has begun, and no doubt the next four years will tell us more about our new civic leader.
Rhys has been, in large part, the energy behind the local not-for-profit "The Makers" which runs Make Place, a local co-working space down near the foreshore.
I've met Rhys several times over the last few years and engaged in some illuminating conversations with him. I don't want to overstate my knowledge of Mr Williams, but he's been generous in sharing his thoughts on several issues, how to tackle problems, and where Mandurah can improve.
One thing impressing me that Rhys has been able to achieve is his ability to reach across the political spectrum and attract support from a diverse range of voters.
His promise to keep rate increases at the CPI raised my eyebrows. This approach with what is essentially local government's only way of taxing us would appeal to anyone who would claim to be fiscally conservative.
But Rhys' hands on dedication to social welfare, and his efforts in running a not-for-profit that was in part funded by the ratepayers of Mandurah shows he's not against public spending as a rule, and has the most vulnerable in our community at the forefront of his mind.
(Keep in mind that it's not actually up to the Mayor to decide what amount rate increases/decreases will be. Mr Williams will be 1 vote of 13 when it comes time to approving a budget.)
Mr Williams, during the election campaign, claimed that crime in Mandurah had increased under Mayor Vergone. By running on that point, Rhys has put himself under pressure to reduce crime in Mandurah during his first term using the very limited tools available to a local government, given policing, the courts, and much of our criminal law is handled by the state government.
But if Mr Williams can demonstrate a real decrease in crime in our city, that achievement will not go unnoticed.
Another key strength of Rhys' is that he hasn't been quiet the last four years in Mandurah. His work at Make Place and involvement in other activities has given him the opportunity to build a large network of people who believe in his vision for how to move Mandurah forward. It's clear he was able to translate that goodwill into votes. Now if he can turn those votes into "hands on deck" he may be able to move some of his more ambitious community project ideas forward in the very near future (e.g. see his ideas around neighbourhoods in the footnotes).
For the next four years, you're going to read a lot of articles about Mr Williams from our local news outlets. And the reality is that you're going to come across those stories on social media and not in a newspaper.
Which means, for better or worse, those stories will be followed by plenty of comments from the general public.
During the election campaign I observed some very polarising online behaviour from people who supported or opposed different candidates. Some of the criticism levelled at the candidates was fair, but some of it was just abusive and childish, clearly coming from people who had an agenda.
Keep in mind when you read online comments from people you don't know, that there are, sadly, a number of people in our community who have their own agenda and are wanting Mr Williams to fail. Some of these people have their own ambitions, or support a different political "team", or are just bored, angry and and really should be out looking for a job rather than trolling on facebook.
Learn to recognise those voices, and then ignore them.
That's not to say Mr Williams should not be kept accountable. I'm confident our local media outlets will do a fine job in questioning our Mayor, the councillors, and keeping us informed.
So what will Mandurah's story be? Does Rhys Williams have what it takes to lead a community in reshaping the narrative of what it means to live in Mandurah?
Time will tell, and I wish him all the best, for all our sakes'.
Though I think it's important we recognise the role WE EACH play in shaping Mandurah's story.
We can choose to contact our Mayor and councillors and share our opinions on various issues. Or we can mumble "typical politician" and go and watch Netflix. We can pay attention and share the great stories about Mandurah and the region that we come across online, or we can only click on crime stories and post snide comments and stupid nicknames for our city. We can look for ways to be part of this amazing community by volunteering, attending events, or holidaying in our own backyard, or we can blame the Mayor if things don't magically improve by themselves.
I personally think Mandurah's story is already pretty awesome. I love living here, and am very proud to call Mandurah home. The actual statistics on crime show the place is much safer than people think, and the lifestyle and its affordability is unrivalled.
But I recognise that's not the narrative everyone carries in their minds when they think of Mandurah.
So I wish Rhys Williams every success in his efforts to reshape Mandurah's story.
For posterity, here are some of the election statements published by Mr Williams.
Safe and Connected Neighbourhoods:
For our community to be at its best, we need connected, safe and supported suburbs, and to grow a sense of neighbourhood spirit.
With this in mind, I will be rolling out new, community driven programs across our suburbs to bring back that largely missing sense of neighbourhood community across Mandurah.
Local community associations will be resourced with funding and training, and will be responsible for rolling out grassroots events and initiatives in the suburbs, tapping into the power of volunteers and community heroes to reconnect our neighbourhoods.
The strength of our community at large and the strength of our individual capacity to succeed are intrinsically linked. That is why the focus on growing a stronger, more connected community must be a priority.
As Mayor, my key focus will be on supporting the community at large to be the best that it can be. This includes supporting community organisations who work with our must vulnerable, ensuring that we have adequate training and job opportunities for young people so that our next generation are supported and strong, and a commitment to making sure that our elderly can live in a community that is connected and accessible.
Nothing can be more important than ensuring that the foundations are in place so that our community can be the best that it can, and that we do everything that we can to ensure nobody gets left behind.
Stronger Business, Stronger Mandurah:
Small businesses are our biggest local employer and the backbone of Mandurah, and yet our business community have largely gone unsupported by Council during these hard few years. To grow our economy, I will work to implement strategies that encourage opportunities, cut red tape, and assist our businesses in growing employment.
In the first 6 months of being elected, I will work with Council to strip out all unnecessary bi-laws that make it harder for you to do business, along with abolishing Council fees that restrict you from being able to grow your business.
I also believe in the power of good business representation. I will work to resource business advocacy groups with the funding they need so that they can focus on building capacity in our business sector.
We live in a beautiful place, but to ensure it stays that way, we need to support new initiatives and implement strategies that promote, protect and improve the health of our waterways and natural environment.
As Mayor, I will work to fix our drainage systems so that adequate filtration prevents pollution to our waterways, and work with the City’s Planning Department ensure our Town Planning Scheme has provision for best practise environmental outcomes.
I will be working alongside key agencies such as the Peel Harvey Catchment Council to set of an effective governance structure to ensure the future of the Region’s ecosystem is protected.
Spending Waste and Transparency:
Achieving an ambitious agenda has to start with ensuring our ratepayers are getting value for money.
As Mayor, I’ll be putting forward measures for greater community participating in setting the budgets so that you know where your money is being spent.
I’ll also be establishing a Council Waste Watch committee to ensure that there is monitoring and open reporting on all Council spending, so that the community can be assured that we’re spending your money in an efficient and transparent manner.
Ignite our City Centre:
I will work to ignite our City Centre as a place where locals and our visitors alike can enjoy, feel safe and have fun. With smart investments in infrastructure and community projects, support to our CBD businesses and a commitment to innovation, our City Centre will be a place for all to enjoy.
Community pride builds hope. A Council that I lead will focus on working alongside community groups and businesses to bring an abundance of culture and vibrancy to our City Centre so that we can showcase Mandurah at its best all year round.
In addition to the activation of our current City Centre, I’ll be working with landowners and developers to lay the foundations for future CBD redevelopment, so that when the market is ready, Mandurah will be best placed to make the most of new investment opportunities.