Outgoing mayor looks back on time in local government

Outgoing mayor looks back on time in local government

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City of Armadale mayor Henry Zelones is calling time on his career in local government this weekend.

The name “Henry Zelones” has appeared on many ballot papers, has been cited in thousands of council documents and has been acknowledged through the microphone at hundreds of events over the past three decades. 

The outgoing mayor of the City of Armadale first ran for council in 1981 when the region was very different to how it appears today. 

It took three attempts before Mr Zelones got his foot in the door in local government in what was then a sleepy country shire, then a town, to what is now a rapidly growing city. 

Mr Zelones describes the City of Armadale as “one of the most stable councils in Western Australia”. 

“When I first got on council in 1989 three of us were kind of pushed into a corner… essentially it was so hard to break into this club, you don’t know nothing, just sit back and learn,” he said. 

“So we did exactly that… I went off to Canberra to do training courses, Linton got involved and Roger went on to become mayor so slowly we kind of changed things.” 

Mr Zelones said as new councillors came on board, they took them in and started to explain their philosophy about working together. 

“It was about bringing them in a lot closer,” he said. 

“We also said that if we have a disagreement we leave it in the chamber or the committee room. 

“We don’t ever air our dirty laundry or arguments in public. 

“The place to say that is not on Facebook, it is in the council chamber… that is where our voice needs to be heard and that is where we need to exercise it.” 

In his three decades of serving the community as a City of Armadale councillor, eight years of which have been as mayor, Mr Zelones said one of the hardest challenges has been attracting investment into the area. 

“We have spent a lot of time gathering the data such as education, unemployment and job prospects because you can’t just go in and whinge about the problem,” he said. 

City of Armadale mayor Henry Zelones at the official opening of the Armadale District Hall after its $4.3 million makeover.

Some of the biggest achievements during his time on council include the widening of Armadale Road, upgrades to Minnawarra and Memorial Parks, the redevelopment of Kelmscott Hall and Armadale District Hall and more recently the unveiling of the $26 million Armadale Fitness and Aquatic Centre.

Fast forward to today and his days at the city are numbered with a local government election this Saturday set to determine the next set of councillors who will serve the community moving forward. 

Mr Zelones said his mind was made up about his retirement from local government in 2017. 

“Every week we get these agenda packages and some weeks they can be extremely thick and that is becoming onerous,” he said. 

“My grandson comes over on Fridays and I used to use a lot of my Fridays to do some of that council reading. 

“I enjoy the little lads company and he enjoys mine. 

“I am just realising that there are other things in life.” 

Mr Zelones recently received the prestigious Local Government Medal for his exceptional service in advancing the goals of WALGA and Local Government, as well as the personal contribution given in pursuit of benefits for the community.