Ratepayers in Gosnells will for the first time have the power to choose who they want as mayor, with Gosnells council voting to move to a directly elected mayor from the 2023 local government elections.
However, there was an air of reluctance in council chambers, with councillors criticising Local Government Minister John Carey for his action on the issue.
To date, the process of electing a mayor has been undertaken by councillors, with a secret ballot to elect one councillor as the leader of the city.
Under the State Government’s proposed local government reform package, all Band 1 and 2 local governments will move to a directly elected mayor, meaning local residents will vote for a mayor separate to councillors.
While there is uncertainty as to when the proposed changes to the Local Government Act will come into effect, there is no doubt that given the State Government’s control over both houses of State Parliament, the change is coming whether local governments like it or not.
In debating the motion to move to a directly elected mayor, councillor Peter Abetz said that while he supported the motion, he said Mr Carey was essentially removing the city’s right to choose, actions he claimed were an abuse of the parliamentary process.
Councillor David Goode also supported the motion somewhat reluctantly, with his concern that mayoral election would ultimately be decided by who had the most money to spend.
Drawing parallels, rightly or wrongly, with the war in the Ukraine, Councillor Dave Griffiths was firmly against the move, taking issue, like Cr Abetz, with Mr Carey’s “you’ll do this whether you like it or not” mandate to local governments, an opinion shared by councillor Kevin McDonald.
This reluctance was not shared by councillor Sarah Patterson, who said council culture was only as good as the people and the city would be “just fine.”
Mayor Terresa Lynes, who in her own submission to the Local Government Review was totally against the proposal of a directly elected mayor, said making this change now would allow the city and future candidates maximum time to prepare for the new system.
“Historically, the council has been reluctant to go down the path of a popularly-elected mayor, but we have a positive relationship with the State Government and have chosen to take this step now to make the transition as smooth and seamless as possible for all parties,” she said.
“Having a popularly-elected mayor will give the community the opportunity to vote on who will be leading the council.”
Residents and ratepayers will be notified of changes to the election process before the October 2023 election.