SIMON Murray is at the helm of Armidale Regional Council.
And, he looks just as comfortable in the mayoral seat as he does driving a tractor.
A week on from his election, Cr Murray wants to address community expectations and his vision for the region.
“So I’ve had not even a full term on Council, does that make any difference?” he said.
“I don’t think it does, it just means there’s a steep learning curve for me.”
Steep indeed, with no borrowing capacity in the four year budget – and loans that won’t be paid out until 2026, Mr Murray has inherited a tough job.
Compare that to the $15 million received by Council following the merger, Cr Murray said he is concerned about reactions to a slowing in progress.
“You come out of an area where the administrator had a lot of money to get projects started,” he said.
“When this new Council gets on and suddenly everything is stopped – that is going to be a concern.
“But the reality is we have to live within the means.
“We can’t keep living the way the administrator was going, he had a bucket of money given to him by the state government.”
Consolidating the projects that have already been started is the mayor’s top priority.
Water security for Guyra, addressing the infrastructure backlog, completing the Armidale Regional Airport upgrades and selling off the industrial land are on his to-do list.
A councillor road trip of smaller townships in the region is one of his first moves to improve community engagement.
Tingha will also host a Council meeting in December.
“These councillors realise they have to involve the whole regional community, not just the Armidale boundary,” Cr Murray said.
“As long as we can keep that sort of enthusiasm going we’ve got a good chance of uniting the whole area.
“Rather than simply sit back here in our ivory tower – we’ve got to go out to the people and mix with them, let the councillors see the area.
“And all the potholes.”
As a mayor, Cr Murray said his leadership technique is far from Simon Says.
“One of my skills is being able to talk to people, so to talk to them and be able to unite them and help guide is the way I’d like to do it,” he said.
“I’m not a dictator.
“Chances are there won’t be a lot of change in two years, that’s the ultimate truth.
“But I would hope we’ve seen movement at the airport area, we’ve seen movement in sales of land and it’s progressing – at the moment it seems to all be on hold.”
The first Armidale Regional Council meeting was held on September 27.