By TONY FOSTER
AFTER 28 years as Mayor and hundreds of columns in Brighton Community News, this will be my final one following my retirement on June 30.
I write this with mixed feelings – satisfaction that our municipality has achieved so much over the past more than three decades I spent on Council, proud that through the efforts of Councillors and staff we have positioned Brighton as the best-performing Council in the State, pleasure in the thousands of friends I have made over my time here, but some sadness that I will no longer be involved with the day-to-day running of the Brighton Council and that I will not directly participate in the many future opportunities that lay before us.
But retirement as Mayor and Councillor does not mean I will no longer be interested in what happens in Brighton. I will continue to delight in the progress, growth and development of our municipality and the achievements of our community groups and people.
When my wife Noeline and I moved to Brighton 40 years ago, the municipality was essentially rural and the Council dominated by those farming interests. Now Brighton is a much more urban place where ratepayers deserve and demand the same services and facilities as people living in other towns and cities throughout Tasmania. That we have delivered those services and facilities more efficiently while charging lower rates is a significant achievement of all those who have served and worked for Brighton Council over the years.
I first stood for election to Council and then as Mayor because I wanted to contribute to my community. After a total of 34 years in local government, I hope I have been able to do that and help to make life better for those who live here now and for those who are to come in the years ahead.
There have been many highlights over that time and too many to mention here. But an initiative that perhaps gave me the most pleasure was how our community welcomed refugees from Kosovo and later Afghanistan to our municipality. These people came to Tasmania from war-torn countries with literally nothing but the clothes on their backs, and Brighton took them in, cared for them and gave them hope for the future. Yes, it involved a change in attitude for many, but the way we accepted these people and helped them demonstrated our community’s spirit and maturity. These are attributes that will hold the Brighton municipality in great stead in the future.
I have always believed that education can provide a solution to many of the problems impacting society. That is why I worked hard for many years, firstly to see the development of the Jordan River Learning Federation and now, the establishment of a new high school at Brighton. These are vital for the future growth of the municipality and for it to continue to be seen as a wonderful place to live and raise a family. Increasingly, with its availability of affordable housing, good facilities and services, Brighton is seen as a very attractive place to live, particularly for young families.
With our growing education facilities, sports grounds, parks and walking trails, community amenities, a wide range of services and a growing business and industrial base, this will see the Brighton community continue to develop. Indeed, over the next three decades, the Brighton Municipality’s population is estimated to double from the current 18,000 to up to 36,000 people.
I have been fortunate over the years to work with some very fine councillors and as Mayor to be supported by excellent Council general managers in Geoff Dodge, Ron Sanderson and now, James Dryburgh. Our financial team under Greg Davoren has ensured Brighton has balanced its budget while providing all the services and facilities required by a developing municipality. And Council has always had excellent staff, with many going on to serve other councils and organisations throughout Tasmania and beyond. I sincerely thank all these people who have supported me during my years as Mayor.
Most importantly, I thank the community for the support I have received. We could not have achieved what we have without this support.
I now leave the Council in an extremely sound position, proud that we offer the lowest residential rates in Tasmania, are debt-free and this year are undertaking our most extensive ever capital works program. As well as the Council’s capital works and renewal projects, we are seeing record levels of private development and significant projects in the pipeline, including the replacement Bridgewater Bridge and new Brighton High School. Brighton is indeed going places.
If I have one regret, I did not always get the balance right between Council and family, often spending too much time on council business to the detriment of my family. So, I must thank Noeline and my family for their forbearance and strong support for much longer than is reasonable.
In departing, I extend my very best wishes to the Brighton Council and the community. I know that Brighton will thrive and continue to achieve great things. I will continue to watch from the sidelines, proud that I have played a role in this success.