Local government elections: Mount Magnet candidates divided on Shire’s record ahead of October 16 poll

Michael RobertsMidwest Times
Mount Magnet shire office.
Camera IconMount Magnet shire office. Credit: Lisa Favazzo

A Mid West Shire with a population of about 470 people is shaping up as the battleground for one of the more intriguing votes at this year’s local government elections.

The Shire of Mt Magnet is either in complete disarray or humming along quite nicely, depending on which candidate you ask.

With voting closing in 10 days, the Times spoke to eight of the 10 nominees competing for four vacancies.

Three candidates were highly critical of the current council’s conduct over the past four years, citing a lack of transparency and communication.

Karen Williams at Mt Magnet Seniors Centre.
Camera IconKaren Williams at Mt Magnet Seniors Centre. Credit: Lisa Favazzo

Mt Magnet Seniors Centre co-ordinator Karen Williams — who previously served two terms on the council — said Shire officials weren’t effectively engaging with the community.

“There’s quite a bit of disenchantment in town,” she said. “The ratepayers are being left out in the cold — they aren’t getting a say in anything.

“There’s a habit of blaming the person who’s asking the question instead of looking for a solution.”

Former Shire library officer Monica Watson — who now works at the Mt Magnet Police Station — said she wanted residents to feel comfortable about approaching their local council.

“There is a distrust, that is probably why myself and a few others are running,” she said.

“I just don’t think they are transparent enough and communicating what they are doing very well.”

If elected, Ms Watson said she would like to improve aged care services and build housing for seniors.

Council nominee Kim Ryan said she wanted a complaints system that served “community needs”.

Kelvin Matthews
Camera IconKelvin Matthews Credit: Midwest Times

The Shire is on the hunt for a new leader after the resignation of chief executive Kelvin Matthews, who has signed a contract with the Shire of Meekatharra. It also needs a new works manager.

At the other end of the divide is a group of four sitting councillors — Shire president Jorgen Jensen and Crs Jason Homewood, Jim McGorman and Karen Morrissey — who have renominated.

Three of those nominees who spoke with the Times had a far more positive view of the Shire.

Cr Jensen said he was happy with the Shire’s progress despite interruption and uncertainty, saying he had unfinished business with several projects.

“I don’t think it’s a divide in town, it’s a small number of people,” he said. “I’m glad some of them are running on council because they will see the difference once they are sitting around that table. It’s not a bad thing anyway, it shows there is a bit of interest in the town, which is better than the opposite.”

Jorgen Jensen
Camera IconJorgen Jensen Credit: Countryman

Cr Morrissey — a Mt Magnet resident of 40 years — praised Mr Matthews’ efforts as CEO, saying she was not interested in “gossip and misinformation”.

“There’s been a lot of progress getting our council where we need to be,” she said. “The CEO knows his job and he hasn’t been manipulated or bullied by those who have previously held some control, so they don’t like that.

“We’ve had a period of time of some disunity in our community. I’m very keen to work towards unity.”

What the town needs is stability and leadership, which we haven’t seen in the last couple of years because of all this nitpicking and carrying on.

“You’ve got to play by the rules when you are on council,” he said.

“No matter what town you go to there are always people who will have a go at you.”

Two nominees are seemingly caught in between the two warring factions.

Hardy Derschow — an Aboriginal elder and snake handler with 30 years experience as a national park ranger — said he was running to give Indigenous locals a voice.

“We haven’t got a representative who sees things from both the Indigenous side and the westernised side,” he said.

“I’ve got a lot of value as a team player.

“We are here to represent the community — I stay out of the name calling.”

Eliz Morris — a former Mt Magnet councillor studying law — said the Shire needed experienced hands on deck.

“What the town needs is stability and leadership, which we haven’t seen in the last couple of years because of all this nitpicking and carrying on,” she said.

Business owner Jade Reed declined an interview.

Cr McGorman was contacted for comment.

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