SEVENTEEN candidates have nominated to stand for election to Muswellbrook Shire Council in 2021
Residents of Muswellbrook Shire will head to the polls on Saturday, December 4 as part of the statewide NSW Local Government Elections.
Four members of the previous council elected in 2016 will not contest the 2021 election, including former Mayor Martin Rush who retired in July this year after serving as mayor since 2008.
Councillors Scott Bailey and Michelle Green both resigned in 2020, while current councillor Jason Foy did not nominate for re-election in 2021.
Voters will elect 12 councillors from the 17 candidates using a preferential voting method.
The elected councillors will then meet in 2022 to determine the next Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Muswellbrook Shire Council.
The Muswellbrook Chronicle reached out to all candidates to provide them with an opportunity to introduce themselves to voters ahead of election day.
The council candidates are displayed in the order they will appear on the ballot paper.
Meet the 2021 Candidates: Muswellbrook Shire Council
Jennifer Lecky has previously served on the Muswellbrook Shire Council but did not stand for re-election in 2016.
Ms Lecky said she moved to Muswellbrook from Sydney in 1990 and started an accounting and taxation practice which has operated since then.
"I have served on Muswellbrook Council previously for 21 years and was always proactive on environment and mining consultative committees." Ms Lecky said.
"My reason to return to Council is to work towards a vibrant and exciting place for visitors to enjoy and for the community to find it meets all expectations.
"Our mining spans more than 100 years and our first nations peoples have a long history of this place that needs celebrating."
De-anne Douglas said she formerly worked as the manager of the Muswellbrook PCYC for more than 15 years and was also previously an executive PA at Upper Hunter Credit Union.
Ms Douglas said she is currently studying a Diploma of Counselling and has volunteered on the Muswellbrook Chamber of Commerce for 18 years.
"I have been part of this community for 25 years and have worked tirelessly during this time to support our community and make a difference," Ms Douglas said.
"I love living here and I am passionate about our community. I want to make a difference and help shape the future of Muswellbrook Shire."
Ms Douglas said if elected, her priorities on the council would be more community consultation to give residents a voice, advocating for improved access to medical services, advocating for improved council services, ensuring the planned Community Hub for Muswellbrook is delivered and advocating for kerbside rubbish for areas in Muswellbrook Shire that do not currently have access to it.
Darryl Marshall said he moved to the Muswellbrook Shire area in 1965 as a child attending schools in Muswellbrook, Merriwa and Sandy Hollow and has lived and worked in the region for most of his life.
"All my working life has been spent in the Muswellbrook Shire," Mr Marshall said.
"My working life started as a 14-year-old child at the vineyards at Sandy Hollow and then I progressed to truck driving and header driving in the Merriwa shire."
Mr Marshall said he began working in coal mining in 1984 and progressed to running his own bobcat business which he sold in 2017, before starting Darryl's Equipment Hire in Muswellbrook in 2021.
Mr Marshall said he was running for council to serve the electorate.
"I'm running for council to be a vibrant person to the electorate, to serve the electorate and to give the electorate a voice in council and to provide someone who can be contacted and listen to the people," he said.
Mr Marshall said his priorities if elected would be to be a voice for the people of Muswellbrook.
"To serve the people, to be there for the people, a voice for the people and to fight for the people to try and get more accurate information across to the people," Mr Marshall said.
Graeme McNeill is an incumbent councillor first elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2016.
According to his biography on the Muswellbrook Shire Council website, Mr McNeill is "Council's spokesperson for Sport and Wellbeing".
"A resident of 35 years, he has a long association with the resource sector in the Shire and advocates for more facilities for the young and elderly," the Muswellbrook Shire Council website said.
Malcolm Ogg is a former Muswellbrook Shire Councillor and Deputy Mayor.
In September 2015 Mr Ogg, then Deputy Mayor, announced he would challenge former Muswellbrook Mayor Martin Rush for the mayoral role but was ultimately unsuccessful.
Mr Ogg did not stand for re-election to council in 2016 and has since served as the president of Muswellbrook Amateur Athletics Club.
Steve Reynolds is an incumbent Muswellbrook Shire Councillor, first elected in 2016.
Mr Reynolds said he was born and raised in Muswellbrook and has a wife and three children who are involved in the community locally.
"I am actively involved in all communities in the shire in a range of various organisations and am always contactable," Mr Reynolds said.
"I was in the mining industry up until 2016 where I suffered a permanent injury. I also have a background in real estate and as general manager of a magazine company here locally.
"I am committed to our communities and ensuring that we are making best well informed decisions for the entire Shire."
Mr Reynolds said transparency was a key issue for him in the upcoming election.
"This upcoming election is about fighting for a more transparent council, and that the community is more aware and engaged during the process, rather than after things are decided behind closed doors," he said.
Mr Reynolds said he wanted to ensure the decisions made by the previous council are well communicated with honesty to the next council.
Mr Reynolds said his priorities for the next term of council would be transparency from the outset, a more engaged council and that current projects in the pipeline are seen through on time and within budget.
"Winding back the unnecessary expenditure whilst having a vision for the future of our shire and a higher level of focus on the people here and now," Mr Reynolds said.
According to the Muswellbrook Shire Council website, the environment, transparency between council and the community, education and the development of employment opportunities are all important to first term councillor, Mark Bowditch.
"Cr Bowditch, the general manager of a locally owned company and Council's Spokesperson for Emergency Services, has focused on listening to the community and taking their concerns back to Council meetings for discussion," the council profile states.
"Away from work and Council commitments, Cr Bowditch enjoys spending time with his family and farming friends, camping and rugby league - he is Chairperson for the referee appointment board in Group 21."
Incumbent councillor Jacinta Ledlin was elected to Muswellbrook Council in 2016 and has served as the Deputy Mayor since July 2021 following the retirement of former Mayor Martin Rush.
Ms Ledlin said she has loved the Muswellbrook Shire area ever since her father brought her to compete at Denman Pony Club as a child.
"As I grew up, I became increasingly aware that my heart belonged in this Valley and I formed a plan to move here as an adult," Ms Ledlin said.
"I have lived and worked in this area for the past 15 years and my love of this area and its community deepens with each year."
Ms Ledlin said she had been fortunate to serve on Muswellbrook Council for the past five years.
"During that time, I have managed two challenging and inspiring portfolios in those of Reconciliation and Finance," she said.
"These two portfolios define my focus which is a commitment to the fabric of community and commitment to managing Council finances responsibly to improve the lives of all of our community members."
Ms Ledlin said it had been a great honour to serve the community as Deputy Mayor.
"My focus is on the continued progress in our community towards economic diversity, maintaining and improving our infrastructure, opportunities for our youth, quality future focused employment, equal access to educational opportunities and continually improving the quality of life for all residents in the area," Ms Ledlin said.
Ms Ledlin said she was very committed to community leadership, agriculture, culture from all of life and was a keen horsewoman, sportswoman and music lover.
"Currently, I work as a Data and Performance Analyst which hones my focus for responsible, well-considered, evidence-based decision making," she said.
"I bring with me a broad skill set and hold three degrees: a degree in Science Education (majoring in physics and biology), a Masters degree in Adult Education and a Research Masters Degree in Sports."
Amanda Barry describes herself as a Denman local for the past 32 years and said she is delighted to nominate for the opportunity to represent the community of Muswellbrook Shire.
"I am married and the proud mother to three wonderful sons, their partners, and my grandchildren," Ms Barry said.
"My boys have all been raised in the local community, and I am the first one to say that it takes a village to raise children."
Ms Barry said since moving to Denman she had worked in a variety of fields from horse studs to vineyards and retail.
"More recently I have worked in mine sites and now at the local power stations. During this time, I have worked with people from a diverse range of backgrounds and abilities," Ms Barry said.
"I have followed through; I have been accountable, and I have held others to account. All of this whilst being transparent and honest."
Ms Barry said she had been heavily involved in local sports as her sons grew up, serving time on committees and providing management and first aid as required.
"I am a strong believer in honesty, reliability, diligence and above all - good old common sense. Communities deserve to have a representative that listens to the community, providing a fair and unbiased view," Ms Barry said.
Ms Barry listed a number of priorities should she be elected to council, such as improvements to Ogilvie Street in Denman.
"I will be encouraging the upgrades to Ogilvie Street in Denman to be finalised and will advocate for the reintroduction of the Denman Wine and Food Affair. It excites me that there is such a beautiful atmosphere in Ogilvie Street, but it is not currently being utilised to its fullest capacity.
"Access to doctors and medical services in our area is a challenge that is ongoing, and I shall promote and encourage improvement, and better application of our upgraded hospital system.
"I shall continue to look for resolution to the ongoing concerns around Denman Pool, with consideration to the pipe project, to increase accessibility during the cooler months.
"This has the potential to increase the Learn to Swim program and improve access to an up-to-date recreational outlet."
Incumbent councillor Stephen Ward said he moved to the Muswellbrook Shire from Sydney with his wife Tracy in 2001.
"I was seconded by BHP as a civil engineer to supervise the construction of the administration buildings, bath houses, rail loop and concreting at Mt Arthur Coal mine," Mr Ward said.
"My contract was for 18 months but in that time, Tracy got a job in the lab at Rosemount and we really loved living here, so we purchased a house in Denman.
"I went on to work at Upper Hunter Shire Council. We have two children who were both born at Muswellbrook hospital, Emily, 15 and Patrick, 9."
Mr Ward said he was a civil engineer who had served three terms on the council, and in that time had ensured sewers, roads, footpaths and drainage have been well maintained.
"I am running for council to continue serving the community. I really enjoy representing local people and being able to help them with Council issues," Mr Ward said.
Mr Ward listed a number of priorities if re-elected to council, including improving access to the Denman football grounds.
"The road and car park are rough. I would like to see it asphalted. We have a top class facility up there and the entrance and car park lets it down," he said.
Other priorities Mr Ward listed include the construction of netball courts in Denman, ensuring that local footpath networks are extended and footpaths that need repairing are repaired promptly and improving accessibility across the whole shire for people with mobility issues.
"As someone who occasionally uses an electric wheelchair and who walks with a stick, I know there are areas in the shire that remain inaccessible and I intend to work with Council to improve that," he said.
According to Muswellbrook Shire Council, Mr Ward has acted as the council's representative on both Mangoola and Spur Hill Community Consultative committees.
Louise Dunn said she grew up on her parents' property at Denman Road and out at Wybong before leaving to study primary teaching at The University of Newcastle.
"I have been teaching in the area for over twenty-five years both at Aberdeen and now at Muswellbrook," Ms Dunn said.
"My husband, David, is also a born and bred local. Both of our families have been employed in the mining industry for over thirty years and have worked at numerous mines around the area."
Ms Dunn said she was running for a position on the council as she was passionate about realising the potential of Muswellbrook Shire.
"I have witnessed the changes that have occurred over the years and would like to bring the 2333 shire back to its former glory of being a caring and compassionate community," she said.
"I realise that coal mining is a vital part of our shire and until we can totally rely on carbon neutral and sustainable energy, coal is always going to be a significant contributor to our energy requirements."
If elected, Ms Dunn said she would advocate strongly for permanent employment in the region's mining sector.
"This would ensure stability now and be an investment for future generations. This would also have a flow on effect for the wider community," she said.
"I have a strong sense of community and would like to see more green open spaces and parks for all to enjoy.
"Family and friends gathering in purpose-built areas is definitely needed in a post-Covid future!"
Janelle Eades has served three terms on Muswellbrook Council and said she was born in Muswellbrook Shire and grew up in the area as Janelle Risby.
"I have seen many changes to our shire and in my three previous terms on Council I have been instrumental in delivering liveability for families with sporting facilities, Conservatorium of Music, aged care facilities, skate park, BMX track, Cinema, parks and education facilities," Ms Eades said.
"I do lots of volunteer work for our Community. I work in the community services industry whereby I coordinate a Family Centre and run programs to assist parents and children.
"I am hoping to be re-elected so that I can help bring some of the projects that we have started to fruition."
If re-elected, Ms Eades said her priorities for Muswellbrook Shire would be industries that will see the shire prosper into the future, education and youth services, performance spaces, liveability for families and advocating to the NSW government for health and housing.
Jonathan Hoad is running as a candidate in the Muswellbrook Shire Council elections in 2021.
According to the NSW Electoral Commission website, Mr Hoad lives in Muswellbrook.
Mr Hoad did not respond when contacted by the Muswellbrook Chronicle nor provide a photograph for this article.
Rod Scholes is the incumbent Mayor of Muswellbrook Shire, having taken up the post following the retirement of former Mayor Martin Rush.
"I am 66 and have lived in Muswellbrook since 1982 and raised four children with my much-missed wife Ruth," Mr Scholes said.
"They attended South Muswellbrook Public where Ruth was a Special Education Teacher, and Muswellbrook High School."
Mr Scholes said he had worked in the mining industry in both production and development during that time, as both an operator and staff.
"I have been involved in local organisations, both sporting and service, throughout those years, on council since 2012, Deputy Mayor since 2016 and Mayor since July 2021," Mr Scholes said.
"My whole family including my father, mother and wife have contributed greatly to this community and I plan to maintain that community effort."
As the Shire's current mayor, Mr Scholes said his desire and passion was to lead and to continue and expand on the previous council's work.
"Additionally, we need to do more to understand, from the community, new lifestyle/support projects for all, including the disadvantaged, youth, and the elderly," he said.
"This will continue to improve Muswellbrook Shire's liveability, infrastructure, and services."
Mr Scholes said communication had not been a strength of the recent council and that, if re-elected, this would change.
Mr Scholes said his priorities if re-elected included continuing to support and expand Council initiatives regarding educational and social support opportunities such as STEAM and the educational opportunities provided by the Donald Horne/UNE education precinct.
Mr Scholes said other priorities included social support from council in accommodation associated with the Tresillian Family Care Clinic, Upper Hunter Youth Services and the Homeless Support Service including the Women's and Children's Refuge
Mr Scholes also nominated his support for current major capital works projects including the Entertainment Precinct, Olympic Park, Town Square, Hunter & Wollombi Parks, the Animal Shelter, the Denman Heritage Museum, the reactivation of the Railway Station as a local museum and the prior to bypass deviation Gateway Project.
"Additionally, continuing the existing Muswellbrook, Denman and Sandy Hollow town centres beautification and rejuvenation projects," he said.
"Core services like roads, waste, water, gardens etc. and administration services including DA's have taken a COVID hit; they also need to be ensured and refined."
Mr Scholes said major changes locally to industry and employment needed to be addressed aggressively.
"We need new and possibly repurposed industry, targeted industrial/development programmes and opportunities for our young in both employment and education," he said.
"Additionally, we need to continue to advocate for our local health services, both the doctor numbers and services, including mental health and the promises already made by the state government regarding local hospital services."
Brett Woodruff is currently the longest serving member of Muswellbrook Shire Council and is standing for his sixth term in 2021.
In the most recent council, Mr Woodruff was council spokesperson for Infrastructure and Development, Assessment and Regulation.
"I have lived, raised our family, worked and loved this shire for four decades. I have had an association with council as an employee, committee member and elected councillor for most of that time," Mr Woodruff said.
"I am just an everyday person, husband, father, grandfather and member of the community and full time employee at a local engineering company.
"I am running for council to continue to represent our shire and it's people, I still wish to contribute on behalf of the community, with both my heart and my head."
Mr Woodruff said his priorities had not changed throughout his near two decade service on the council.
"They are still to provide our residents and ratepayers with guidance, support and governance in our special part of this great country.
"I believe it's important to look back and appreciate what we had, enjoy what we have and plan for future generations to come."
Jeff Drayton previously served as Deputy Mayor of Muswellbrook Council before deciding not to stand for re-election in 2012.
In 2021, Mr Drayton stood as the Labor candidate in the NSW state by-election for the Upper Hunter electorate which was won by Nationals candidate Dave Layzell.
Mr Drayton said he was born and raised in Denman before marrying and relocating to Muswellbrook at the age of 24.
"I have raised 3 children who all still live at home and work locally. Both my family and my wife's family have also been born and raised locally," Mr Drayton said.
Mr Drayton said he began working at 17 when he finished schooling and worked for the Oatley family at their Rosemount Estate winery before working for the county/council energy authority for 13 years.
"I have spent the last 19 years in the mining industry working for BHP and representing mine workers' industrial interests working for a trade union," he said.
If elected, Mr Drayton said he wanted to increase the transparency of the council's decision making.
"Decisions of the current council appear to be the personal decision of each councillor rather than a decision based on feedback from the people they represent," Mr Drayton said.
"We will need to work hard to regain the confidence of ratepayers.
"Move the focus back to more community based outcomes. Council need to start dealing with the issues that are important to ratepayers like local roads, community groups , public facilities, sporting clubs etc.
"While council have done a good job financially with their current position, this money does remain that of the local community and should be used as the community decides.
"The only way to do this is to re-open the consultation with those stakeholders."
Rohit Mahajan is the owner and operator of the Southside Newsagency and Aah Pizza Bella Pizzeria on Maitland Street in Muswellbrook.
Mr Mahajan said he was born in India but moved to Australia to complete his university education, receiving a Masters of Accounting Degree from CQUniversity in Sydney.
"I am a proud Australian citizen now and am a successful businessman operating and living in Muswellbrook," Mr Mahajan said.
"I am running retail businesses in Muswellbrook which provides me an opportunity to meet approximately 600-700 customers everyday.
"Over the last few years I have developed a sound relationship with the community who sometimes tell me about their concerns about the town, businesses, employment opportunities available etc.
"They want (those concerns) to be heard in the council but their voice is generally unable to reach the decision makers.
"I'll be the voice of the local community and will be communicating their concerns as we know that a government can only be deemed successful if the local community is happy and content."