THE Blayney Shire has a new mayor today after Scott Ferguson fended off a challenge from new councillor David Kingham to claim the top job at a council meeting last night.
Councillor Ferguson secured the support of councillors Geoff Braddon, Allan Ewin, David Somervaille and Shane Oates to gain the mayoralty while Cr Allan Ewin was voted in as deputy mayor despite a challenge from the man who previously occupied the position, Cr Kevin Radburn.
Cr Ferguson described his elevation to mayor as an absolute honour after serving on Blayney Shire Council for the past 13 years.
"I've been fortunate enough to serve with three mayors - councillors John Davis, the late Ted Wilson and councillor Bruce Kingham," he said.
"They've all had different styles but each had one thing in common, they were committed to growing the prosperity of the shire and my aim is to follow in their footsteps."
Establishing closer ties with residents and ratepayers will be a key objective for Cr Ferguson.
"My main priority is to work harder to ensure the community has more ownership of the council," he said.
"That's a two way street though, council has to involve the community more but the community has to be prepared to get involved with the council because we can't operate in isolation.
"Most people only interact with council when they do business with us and we need to make sure whenever they interact, they're having a positive experience whether they're complaining about a dog or a development application."
Engaging more with local youth and women will help get the community more involved with the council, Cr Ferguson said.
"I think hosting an annual women's forum would be a good idea because mostly it's women that are running our sporting clubs, village associations and even businesses so they need to be recognised.
"Women are a critical part of our community and given there is no female councillor this term, it's important we reach out.
"A similar idea would be to get the schools on board and hold a youth forum so we can hopefully meet the challenge of connecting with our young people."
Councillor Ferguson said one of the key issues the new council will have to address is a recommendation to increase rates by an extra seven per cent a year for the next decade.
He said draft forecasting shows the council would struggle to remain viable without a series of special rate increases which are well above the state government rate set pegging limit.
"Unless the community has a very strong understanding of why we need another rate variation, I don't think the council of the day will support it.
"If the community doesn't support it we need them to understand the downside of rejecting another special rate variation.
"That will almost certainly have to include cutting some services and not going ahead with planned infrastructure upgrades."
Councillor Ferguson said all councils are pressure because NSW is the only state in Australia that caps the amount of rates councils can charge.
"When costs go up by five per cent and the rate cap is say three per cent, that creates a problem," he said.
On the controversial issue of upgrading the many shire roads that are in a bad condition, Cr Ferguson said the council needs to push harder for more funds from other levels of government.
"A lot of road infrastructure that council now has responsibility for was put in by previous state and federal governments years ago," he said.
"Little money has been put into them since and this under investment, along with population growth, shows why they're in a such bad shape.
"It's unfair to ask councils or the community to pay to fix these roads that they never paid for in the first place."
Another challenge the council faces is the potential of amalgamation with nearby councils, something Cr Ferguson said he will fight against.
"Orange's previous proposal was to split the shire up into three, with parts going to Orange, Cowra and Bathurst.
"As I understand it, their proposal to the Independent Local Government Review, is the old one dusted off.
"Other councils or their representatives have little understanding of the needs of towns and villages in our shire and local jobs would be lost if amalgamation happened so I'm totally against it," Cr Ferguson said.
The new council is united and as mayor and a self-employed plumber, Cr Ferguson said he would bring a different style to the role.
"Most mayors are retired farmers or high profile businessmen so I'm not your atypical mayor and I hope that I will be different from other mayors," he said.
Cr Ferguson said his challenger for the mayoral role, Cr David Kingham, was well within his rights to contest the position.
"It's a sign of healthy, robust democracy," he said.
Cr Kingham said while he knew he didn't have the numbers to become mayor, he contested the position because he believes competition is healthy.
"I've got some credentials I think could help the council," he said.
Both men said councillors would work together to advance the interests of the entire shire.
"There's no animosity," Cr Kingham said.
"I hope Scott does a good job and that will involve some very serious decision making and leadership.
"There's certainly no two sides on this council like there was on the last one."
Cr Ferguson previously served as mayor for a short time in 2008 after the death of then mayor, Ted Wilson.
Bruce Kingham served as mayor for the past four years but retired at the recent election.