Councillor profiles - Mayor Jenny O’Connor Indigo Shire Council
Indigo Shire is a very beautiful part of northeast Victoria. We have five main towns but over 32 communities – all proud, unique and vibrant. The landscape is stunning and our heritage towns are unique.
I live in Beechworth, which is a great town, but as I travel from Wagunyah to Tamgambalaga I visit fantastic communities and beautiful townships right across the Shire. Our heritage, cycling and food and wine offerings make for a great tourism area to visit – and a wonderful place to live.
This is my second term on Council – I was elected as mayor for a two-year term in 2016, so am in my second year as mayor.
Since I have been mayor I have stopped working in my professional role, which was most recently as a project worker to improve sexual health in rural communities. My background is in nursing and counselling and I have worked in a wide range of health and social support services. This has helped me to understand the issues that people face, particularly in regard to general and mental health concerns for people in rural communities.
Outside of council hours I like gardening, cooking, enjoying the local food and wine and exploring the local landscape – and, when possible, travelling (although that’s on hold for now).
Challenges and innovation
We share similar challenges to many small rural shires. Namely, our dependency on grants – time, resources and the requirement for matching funding makes this extremely challenging. Other issues are our limited capacity to provide for such a diverse group of communities with different needs and the increasing expectations from the community for service provision from local government. As with many small rural shires, we have large infrastructure assets with a small rate and revenue base.
Council has worked on a number of important environmental actions that I am proud of. This includes banning fracking in the Shire. We are currently working on a plastics-wise strategy to become single-use plastic bag and bottled-water free. We are also attracting investment in solar energy and developing as a community energy retailer in partnership with Totally Renewable Yackandandah. We aim to support innovative community projects like this as well as place-making for other small towns to support their growth and sustainability.
We are also partnering in the North East Victorian Cycling Optimisation project to develop premium cycling trails and mountain bike cycling destinations.
Working for the community
I find the best part of being a councillor is the engagement with motivated, enthusiastic people including other councillors, staff and, of course, community members. On the flipside, a challenge can be dealing with unhappy communities when we are not able to fulfil their needs or meet expectations due to resource limitations.
Going forward, as a member of the board of Rural Councils Victoria, I hope we are successful in achieving reliable, fair funding levels for our member councils, and can therefore improve the sustainability of rural communities into the future.