Tributes flow for former mayor
JIM McRae made his name as a critic of the Rockhampton City Council and its legendary mayor, Rex Pilbeam.
As a presenter on 4RO, he fearlessly exposed what he believed to be the mistakes of those who ran the city.
But Cr Pilbeam saw the potential for public service in his chief media tormentor and cleverly avoided Jim’s continuing scrutiny by recruiting him to his Civic Independent Group.
It was 1982 when the man who began his working life as an apprentice signwriter won a place on the city council and began 18 years of continuous service in the council chamber.
It was to culminate in a three-year term as mayor, from 1997 to 2000, when Lea Taylor stepped down to return to his drought-stricken property in Winton.
He eventually lost out to Margaret Strelow, but retained a fierce interest in local politics.
In 2008 he came within a whisker of a spectacular return as mayor of the newly formed Rockhampton Regional Council, losing only on preferences to Brad Carter.
But he had much to be proud of from his time in charge. He returned traffic to the East St mall, championed the redevelopment of the inner-city riverbank and presided over a period of heavy business investment.
He was not afraid of controversy in his determination to do what he believed was right. Famously, he refused to countenance installing domestic water meters.
He drew wide criticism when he bulldozed the heritage-listed toilets in Quay St and demolished the old Queensland Hotel.
Yet throughout, he retained the respect of his opponents and, because of his genuine nature and politeness, became known as Gentleman Jim. With a council divided on political lines, with Labor and Independent blocs, he had to work hard to fashion progressive results.
When he left office he had nine weeks of holidays owing.
In an interview in 2008 he said he was proud of successfully negotiating government grants to extend the runway at Rockhampton Airport.
His lasting legacy is the Jim McRae Walk along the south bank of the Fitzroy in the park he worked so hard to create.