Councillor profiles - This month from Mayor James Dooley, Frankston City Council, Victoria
Frankston is both a dormitory city and regional that serves South East Melbourne and the wider Mornington Peninsula and Westernport regions. It supports four hospitals, a University campus, a Tertiary Technical Campus, major Arts Centre, the regional Swimming, AFL, Basketball, Cricket, Netball and Hockey centres. It has five significant diverse Fauna and Flora Reserves and 10 kilometres of Victoria’s most popular beach and Ramsar-listed Seaford Wetlands. Frankston City won the Keep Australia Beautiful Sustainable City of the Year Award in 2015.
I decided to get involved with local government because I wanted to see Frankston’s economic fortunes progress quicker than what had been the case in the past. I had shown a long-term interest in local issues so my wife encouraged me to stand for Council and I am currently in my fourth year. Last year in October 2015, I had the pleasure of being elected as Mayor of Frankston.
Advocating for change
The Mayoralty has my undivided attention. In the past, I’ve worked in small business and the corporate sector both as an Indian and a Chief. That experience has allowed me to appreciate that the structure of a Council is more akin to being “a collective” as against the vertical hierarchical structure that many imagine it to be. The nuance is that a consultative two-way dialogue will pay a bigger dividend in policy formation and decision making where the devil can be in the detail.
My favourite part of being a Councillor is the Advocacy aspect. Where you start with a concept, flesh it out, spread the message, find other champions for the cause, make the concept real through a submission, lobby for support, win the funding and see a project come out of ground that you know will benefit the people you know and live with.
Despite Frankston’s many natural advantages, its economic progress has been impeded by transport connectivity issues. Council successfully lobbied to have some of these issues addressed with station upgrades, rail realignment and level crossing removal. But the most pressing need is to have the Frankston Rail Line extended to Baxter. This will free up valuable parking space in our commercial district and give many people opportunities for employment and education that they currently don’t have. Potentially, this will also free up the third rail line to Melbourne, which is currently being used for overnight train stabling.
Our Council’s success has been a team effort – the Executive team, the staff and the Councillors. Council’s most outstanding success over the last three years has been its financial management of the budget. We’ve made some significant savings from scrutiny of expenditure, reduced outgoings on insurances and utilities, embraced more efficient management model and reaped the rewards. The savings have been reinvested in an extensive capital works programme which has included a new Waste Transfer Station and Regional Aquatic Centre.
Keeping up the momentum
I’ve become the Mayor at a fortunate time; Council has fostered a local momentum toward prosperity that I hope can be sustained through the completion of our capital works programs. We’ve hit all the bases, financial prudence, environmental responsibility and the final goal of attaining better outcomes for our community.
For me the best part of being a councillor comes long after a project is completed or a policy implemented and you realise that what you did was a success and that you made the right decision.
The worse part of being a Councillor is the time spent away from my wife and children and the constant worry that they may pay a price through association for any reputational damage to the Council.
Outside of work hours, I enjoy spending time with my wife and children but still have to do the mundane jobs like washing dishes, doing the gardening etc. I also love going to see AFL Football and supporting my team, Hawthorn.