Mayor ‘gutted’ by councillor’s resignation

Rachel Power announcing her resignation as a councillor
on ABC Radio yesterday morning.

RECEIVING Rachel Power’s resignation from the Derwent Valley Council left him feeling “gutted”, mayor Ben Shaw said during a radio interview yesterday.

Speaking to Leon Compton on the Mornings program on ABC Radio, Cr Shaw said it had been a tough time on the council of late.

Mrs Power had appeared on the same program to publicly announce that she had sent her resignation from council to Cr Shaw, and that she was standing down due to personal attacks received via social media.

In his interview with Cr Shaw, Mr Compton noted that the mayor had been “in the thick of it” in relation to the social media reaction to the bird-poisoning event now referred to as “GooseGate”. “What sort of toll has it taken on you?” Mr Compton asked.

“It’s pretty tough Leon. I guess I was deputy mayor for four years, so I expected it a little bit, but when you are I guess in the ‘top chair’ as well, you cop it a little bit more,” Cr Shaw said.

Ben Shaw at his swearing-in as mayor last year.

“I can cop anything that I have done, personally, and I have recently as well,” Cr Shaw said.

“You know, I’ve done things and said certain things that I’m not happy with myself, and I’m happy to cop those, but it’s the social media barrage of things that …  you can’t control that’s just devastating and you can’t say anything.

“It’s just a horrible place to be, to be honest with you, but the benefits of what you can do at local government level for your community – the community that I was born into – I guess it just makes you stick around.”

Cr Shaw said there were probably only 12-15 people responsible for most of the social media criticism of the council, and this was something he kept reminding his councillors about. “But the majority of people out there in the community … that say ‘hey how about that crap that’s going on’, far outweigh the few that want to spew hatred.”

Mr Compton said he had seen social media correspondence directed at Cr Shaw that was “sexualised, personalised and defamatory in the extreme” and asked what that was like to deal with. “It’s horrible, it’s terrible, I have a wife and a young family … it’s not great,” Cr Shaw said.

Derwent Valley Councillors on the night of their first meeting
after last year’s election.

Cr Shaw said Mrs Power was one of a number of people he had encouraged to stand for election to council last year.

“I rallied round quite a few people to try and join our council and change the face of council,” adding that he had joined local government to try to change it and get things moving in the right direction.

“I tapped 10 to 15 people on the shoulder and said ‘hey, come and help me make this change’ and everybody just goes ‘no way, wouldn’t do it for quids’,” he said, adding that Mrs Power had been one of the people he approached and he had hosted one of her election posters on his front lawn. “So I’m glad that she sort of got in and had a crack and I’ve got a couple of other elected members that are there, sort of helping us along the way to change the face.”

Cr Shaw said it was his personal view that the Local Government Act needed changing in relation to the election of mayors. “If you’re running for mayor or deputy mayor you should run for that position [alone, and not] for a councillor position.”

“I go to mayors’ meetings around the state and it’s a very common theme that the person that you beat [in the mayoral election] and the person that is sitting round the table with you who harbours that resentment certainly can do lots more harm in the room than what they can out of the room.”

Listen to the full broadcast here.

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