Bendigo Council Mayoral Election 2020

Part of my intent in keeping my campaign website going is to discuss issues in our city, but also to inform residents about the democratic processes of your council. This time: the mayoral elections. I’ll look at my principles for how I will decide who I will be voting for, a few interesting details about the process, and how voting works.

This week, your elected councillors will be electing one of our number to be Mayor, and another to be Deputy Mayor. Currently, there are 4 councillors who have said they will nominate for the position of Mayor: Cr Alden, Cr Metcalf, Cr O’Rourke and Cr Fyffe, who all served as councillors. You can read a little about the position of mayor here, however essentially their role is to chair all council meetings, be the principal spokesperson for the council, and the public face of Greater Bendigo. They have no more power around the council table than the other councillors, though in cases where there is a tied vote, they have a casting vote to break the tie.

Given the ballot is secret, I will not be revealing who I vote for, either now or later. However, here are some criteria I will be using to decide my vote:

  • Do they have a comprehensive understanding of the wide range of needs of our municipality?
  • Do they display the qualities necessary to chair productive meetings of council? Things like: collaboration, being an excellent listener, fairness, independence.
  • Do I think they can maintain a positive and fruitful, yet independent, relationship with the CEO?
  • Do I think I can work with them productively to make progress on the priorities I campaigned on, for the good of Whipstick Ward and the whole municipality?
  • Do I think they understand the particular challenges Bendigo faces right now?
  • Would I happy for our city to be represented by them in all kinds of settings? For example civic and ceremonial gatherings, regional meetings, political settings etc.

When I look at the current prospective candidates, there are no red flashing lights according to these criteria. I will making an “on balance” decision about who I think best meets these criteria. I have also spoken to a number of community members to get their view, not on who would make the best mayor, but on what qualities and skills they believe are crucial for Bendigo’s mayor at this point in our history.

A few things about the process:

  • Councillors have already had a conversation about the mayoral term, as it is possible for us to elect a Mayor for a 2 year term. We have decided a 1 year term is appropriate.
  • Council does not have to elect a Deputy Mayor, but we have decided that we will elect one. This will also be for a 1 year term.
  • Although the official election is on this Thursday night, a provisional decision is usually made at an informal meeting of council earlier in the week. Councillors will hear presentations from each of the candidates and we will ask them questions to help us decide how to vote.
  • Then, on this Thursday night, the official election takes place. Usually, the Mayor-elect is the only nominee and so takes their place. However, it is possible for another councillor or councillors to nominate on Thursday night, in which case a vote will be held. This is extremely rare.

So how does the voting work at the informal meeting?

  • A candidate must get 5 votes to become the Mayor-elect.
  • The voting is by secret ballot
  • Councillors write their choice of candidate on individual pieces of paper
  • In the first round of voting, if no candidate gets 5 votes, the candidate with the least votes is cut from the race, and then another round of voting takes place. This continues until 1 candidate has 5 votes. Hence, it is possible to vote for 1 candidate in the first round, and then others in subsequent rounds.