Phyllis Miller OAM, Mayor Forbes Shire Council

Article image - Phyllis Miller OAM, Mayor Forbes Shire Council

Forbes Shire, in central west New South Wales (NSW), prides itself on being innovative and progressive whilst maintaining an outstanding quality of life for residents.

It’s a shire where the community is engaged and looks to the future, while we acknowledge and celebrate our past.

We are a tight knit community and generations of families will choose Forbes to raise their own children. While young people tend to leave after they finish school to travel and study, they return back to Forbes.

Sculpture trail
I really love our waterways: the Lachlan River and Lake Forbes. Also the walking track around the lake and the sculptures we have dotted in and around town. I’m very proud to have been a part of getting them into our shire.

If you compare the Sculpture Trail to say an event, as a way of promoting the town and gaining tourism, you can achieve large crowds for both. The difference is the impact the crowds have on the town’s resources, and an event has them all coming at one time. The Trail will attract people continuously throughout the year and not put pressure on the town’s services.

Community support returned
I was elected to Council in September 1995, 24 years ago. I ran aiming to repay the community of Forbes for their loyalty to my family as business people. And secondly when I lost my 21 year old son in a car accident in 1994, the Forbes community showed my family great kindness, care and love throughout a very difficult time.

I’m a mother of five, but my other career was as a stock and station agent, a real estate and auctioneering business. We also have farming enterprises with irrigation and dryland properties, beef cattle and mixed cropping. I have recently retired from full-time work.

My business skills have certainly given me experience in negotiation and dealing with people. I have a close connection with my community, my work and council activities.

I’m in my 7th term as Mayor and love every bit of Local Government.
I was the President of the Shires Association of NSW 2003-05. I am a board member of Local Government NSW and also a member of the Australian Local Government Board.

My down time and activities outside of local government include cooking, squash, watching the football and spending as much time as possible with my beautiful family.

Growing services
One of the challenges faced in rural councils is the retention of doctors. To address this Council built a walk in walk out medical centre enabling doctors from metropolitan areas to relocate without large capital outlays. This has kept us with healthy doctor numbers and more visiting specialists also attend to provide specialised services.

One of my first projects as a new member to Council involved a block of 12 residential units situated on a gas site. The block housed elderly people and they had to be relocated for work to be done to the site. After years of negotiations and court cases to make sure the site was safe again we won, and the site was refurbished to meet the strict safety levels required. To ensure this never happened again, we made certain the property could not be sold. The site maintains the highest level of safety for residents and it continues as accommodation for the over 55’s.

Another project that has left an impression was getting McDonalds to franchise in Forbes. I contacted the company personally, and was told our town was too small. With further negotiations I convinced them it could work with a different model to suit Forbes and other small towns. The location had to be on the Newell Highway for maximum impact; such an enormous amount of traffic passes this location every single day. Council assisted with negotiations on the property site and McDonalds was very happy with the process. The business has seen thousands of young people working in the store and helped many of them start their employment journey.

Similarly, the opportunity to bring big retail offerings to town was sought with Bunnings and Spotlight targeted. The project was a success and the site on which these two businesses stand is now moving into Stage 2 with further retail and service opportunities being developed.

The aim when working with large companies is to bring jobs to our community, so we need to ensure the work will be carried out by local tradesmen and workers. When the retail is up and running it also draws in more people to live and work in the region.
My aim is to continue to see the population grow, and create new jobs through sound economic development policy, to make Forbes the place of choice to live, work and play.