Four generations of Mayors

Local Government seems to run in the blood of Richmond Valley Council Mayor, Col Sullivan, but it is commitment to his community that attracted him to the role, rather than his family history.

A retired builder married with three children, Col has spent 34 years working for Local Government on the far north coast of New South Wales.

He served with the former Tomki Shire Council from 1974 to 1976, and the former Richmond River Shire Council from 1976 to 2000, including eight years as Mayor.

Today, Col continues to serve as Mayor on Richmond Valley Council, which was formed with the amalgamation of Richmond River Shire and Casino Council in 2000.

Predominantly a rural area, Richmond Valley covers more than 3,000 square kilometres and has a population of 22,000 people.

Col is a fourth generation Councillor from his family, and all were Mayors. His father, Percy Sullivan, served as President of the former Tomki Shire Council. His grandfather, William, was also Shire President of Tomki, remarkably, at the same time that his father (Col’s great grandfather), John Sullivan, was Mayor of Casino Council.

While Col is proud of his family history, he said he did not become involved in Local Government for that reason.

“Being part of Council is not about my family and its history, it’s about the community,” he said. “I initially stood for Council to represent my small rural community, which at that time, had no representation. I knew of my father’s term on Council, but I did not learn about my grandfather and great grandfather until later on.”

Col’s achievements in Local Government are many and varied, but he is most proud of being elected President of the New South Wales Shire Association from 2005 to 2007, and also serving as Vice President of the Australian Local Government Association from 2006 to 2007.

Col has also been humbled by his family’s involvement in Local Government, and his most memorable moment was when he officially opened Waldrons Bridge.

Only three bridges have ever been built across that particular part of Eden Creek, and on the day of officially opening the third one, Col was informed that the previous two bridges had also been opened by Sullivans.

In opening another bridge, Col received a phone call from his uncle on the scheduled day and was given a pair of scissors which his grandfather used to open a bridge in his day.

Back then, scissors were given as a gift to the person opening the bridge, and they were engraved with dates and details.

Col now has three children, and while he hopes that one day they will give something back and become involved in their community in some capacity, Local Government is not necessarily what he wants for them.

“Local Government is a big commitment,” he said. “And if they do get involved one day, I hope that they have established themselves first.

“There are many ways I hope they can be involved with their community, whether it be through the Red Cross, local clubs or otherwise. It is a very rewarding experience.”