Popular long-serving mayor, Martin Rush has today announced his retirement from Muswellbrook Council.
Mr Rush will formally finish his term before the end of the financial year but will immediately start transitioning responsibilities.
He had intended to retire last year but the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic delayed his plans for 12 months.
Muswellbrook will now join Upper Hunter Shire Council, whose mayor Wayne Bedggood resigned in June 2020, in welcoming a new shire leader before the Council elections.
Mr Rush said he would be returning to his full-time work as a barrister.
In 2008, at the age of 31, Cr Rush became the youngest of Council's thirty-three mayors to hold that position.
He received almost half the total votes of all the other Councillors candidates combined at the 2012 and 2016 general elections.
Being Mayor of Muswellbrook he has been heavily involved in working with the coal mining industry to ensure the best outcomes for his community as well as developing cultural venues and activities within the district.
Purchase of the Muswellbrook Marketplace shopping centre for $34.25 million in 2017 to be held as part of council's Future Fund will also no doubt be part of his legacy at Council.
Speaking about his departure, Mr Rush said:
"Serving the Muswellbrook community has been an enormous honour. As many know, I intended to retire from Council after returning from overseas twelve months ago but given the COVID-19 pandemic and the possibility that things might have turned for the worse, I have been pleased to continue for an additional twelve months.
"We should be proud of the way our community has responded to the measures necessary to control the pandemic and its health and economic impacts. I want to particularly thank the Area Health Service and Council's General Manager and staff officers for the extraordinary but quiet work that ensured our community was prepared for all eventualities. I am confident we are through the worst of it and that it is now appropriate for Council to commence a transition to new leadership"
"I particularly want to pay tribute to Council's General Manager who has had a year that has included drought, bushfires, COVID-19 and the relocation of Council's administration back to Muswellbrook Town centre."
"Thank you also to my colleagues, the community's councillors, and the community for their enormous support over the last 12 and a half years, We are extremely well served by our community's councillors, all of whom are of working age and who make their contributions in their own time for the love of their community."
In 2015 Mr Rush contested the state seat of Upper Hunter for the Labor Party against the The Nationals Michael Johnsen who was replacing long term member George Souris.
Upper Hunter at that time was one of the safest National seats in the state with a margin approaching 30 per cent.
However a strong campaign by Mr Rush saw that margin reduced to just over 2 per cent.
He entered the race for 2019 March state election with many predicting he could win the seat from Mr Johnsen.
However he withdrew from the contest in January 2019 after allegations were made, via an anonymous letter.
At that time Mr Rush said "Politics should not be about weighing the other side down in smear but about genuine conversations about improving policy, building things, and improving people's lives.
"Weighing heavily on me over the last few days has been balancing my desire to get up every morning and to try and make the place a little better with the inevitable impact of public life on those around me."
Mr Rush said that his move to withdraw from the race "has not been an easy decision, particularly given the seat's margin".