Rockhampton Regional Council members stand together to pay their respects to former mayor Margaret Strelow. Councillor Donna Kirkland, Shane Latcham, Tony Williams Drew Wickerson, Ellen Smith, Cherie Rutherford and Acting Mayor Neil Fisher.
Rockhampton Regional Council members stand together to pay their respects to former mayor Margaret Strelow. Councillor Donna Kirkland, Shane Latcham, Tony Williams Drew Wickerson, Ellen Smith, Cherie Rutherford and Acting Mayor Neil Fisher.

Councillors share stunned reactions to Strelow’s resignation

‘VERY, VERY shell-shocked’ were the words Rockhampton region Acting Mayor Neil Fisher used to describe the reaction he and other councillors had to the news of former Mayor Margaret Strelow’s resignations late yesterday afternoon.

Cr Fisher has been appointed acting mayor for the time being and a by-election is expected in the new year.

Cr Fisher and all councillors fronted media in solidarity this afternoon to discuss the news.

“This is one of the moments you never expect to have to do in your life as a councillor,” Cr Fisher started out by saying.

He paid his respect to Mrs Strelow and said they were still coming to terms with the news.

“To have someone who has guided and shaped all of our political careers, shaped the way we conduct ourselves as councillors, shaped the way we do our job as councillors, to have her resign … is something we all took very hard,” he said.

He went on to thank Mrs Strelow for what she had achieved in her time with council.

Mrs Strelow began her career with council in 1997 where she served as councillor until 2000.

From 2000 to 2008 she was mayor and again from 2012 to 2020, the second stint being after deamalgamation.

“Her leadership over the last 20 years has set Rockhampton in the financial position we are in now,” Cr Fisher said.

“After deamalgamation, we were looking at being one of the battling communities in Queensland … Margaret’s stewardship, her determination and sheer hard work has seen Rockhampton to be in one of the best financial positions in the state.

“We have some beautiful amenities in this town and they have been hard fought, we have developed a culture, just look at river festival …. go back 30 years ago, Rockhampton had none of that.

“This was the guidance of having someone like Mayor Margaret Strelow to see that future.” Margaret Strelow will leave behind a legacy that “speaks volumes”, Cr Fisher said.

“Before that we were a council that was dominated by males, last term us males were in the minority … That’s a credit to Margaret,” he said.

The former mayor tendered her resignation to CEO Evan Pardon at 5pm yesterday.

Cr Fisher said she only made the decision to resign yesterday afternoon.

He was first made aware of the decision when he landed back in Rockhampton from a weeks holiday and got a call just before 5pm.

“I have to admit I did ask her to reconsider,” Cr Fisher said.

Cr Fisher said he was really relieved at the announcement today from Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe that the State Government would pass a bill to retrospectively amend the Local Government Act, which would inturn create the need for a by-election.

He admitted he didn’t get any sleep last night and was quite concerned about what could happen.

It was too early to say when a by-election would be held, Cr Fisher said, and he estimated it could be at least early next year.

Despite the shocking and surprising news, Cr Fisher was confident he and the team of councillors would be able to work through the turmoil and still get their job done.

“I believe Rockhampton Regional Council have some very good councillors and that’s why we have come through tough times before and the people that surround me, when the going gets tough they go an extra 110 per cent,” he said.

“We are a very good team, we work as a team, we have achieved as a team and we will continue to achieve a team.

“We will be working in the best interests of the city and we will keep working in the best interests of the city.

“We may have from time to time robust discussions, but we all have Rockhampton region as first and centre of our priorities.

“It has been a shock but we will move on and we want to see a lot of projects that were initiated by former mayor Strelow will come to fruition and see our community move forward.”

CEO Evan Pardon said council business would continue as normal while the process for electing a new mayor was worked through.

“We welcome the clarity provided by Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe today as we move through the process to fill the Office of the Mayor,” Mr Pardon said.

“In the interim, we will continue with the day to day business and will provide more information when it’s available.

“This is obviously a new situation so it will take time to work through the next steps but we will keep the community updated as we go along.”

At this stage, no councillors have indicated if they are running.

Cr Fisher said he hadn’t even had a chance to think about it and talk to his family.

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