Councillor profiles - Kathy Sajowitz Mayor Oberon Council
Settled in 1839, at 1113m Oberon is the highest town in the Blue Mountains with a population of approximately 6000. We enjoy four distinct seasons including perfect summers and intermittent snow falls in winter. Made up of the town and three outlying historical villages, we are a caring community with a thriving economy. Our main industries are timber, innovative farming and tourism, all of which provide a stable employment base and
Oberon is located in the heart of the Tablelands Way, which provides a travellers’ dream, an inland north/south link from Canberra to Muswellbrook. We boast Jenolan Caves, the most spectacular limestone caves in Australia, Kanangra Walls majestically watching over Kanangra-Boyd National Park, and the stunning Mayfield Gardens in the Local Government Area. And we are the wedding capital of the Central West.
Oberon is its people
From a personal perspective ‘Oberon is its people’ and I am extremely proud to represent them as their mayor, a responsibility that is sometimes frightening, constantly busy, occasionally challenging but always enjoyable. My interaction with what is an amazing community and the sense of achievement when good things happen as a result of Council’s work,
is very rewarding.
My husband and I retired to Oberon in 2005 leaving our three children, seven grandchildren and now four new grandbabies in Sydney and surrounds. I put my hand up to make a difference in 2012 and was lucky enough to be elected as a councillor. I was elected to the Mayoral role in 2015.
This was a tricky time for our community, Fit for the Future raised its head and local government amalgamations were flagged, it was proposed to amalgamate Oberon with a neighbouring council. Our stalwart community stood up, we invested funds worked extremely hard and went to court against the New South Wales Government to fight this issue. We were fortunate to be still ‘fighting this good fight’ when it was announced that all proposed amalgamations not enacted were off the table. Oberon has not looked back. Fit for the Future? Yes-we-are!
All local councils face daily challenges, delivering a good level of service on a restricted budget is one of them. Bringing the community through the adverse economic impacts of drought, fire, COVID-19 and flood continues to present these challenges. The support of both the New South Wales and Federal governments through these difficult times has been invaluable.
Long term, local government is the best placed and most effective way of delivering State or Federal services and projects but needs to receive a fair share of funds, transfer of service obligations from other levels of government needs to be accompanied by a corresponding transfer of funding – constant cost shifting is not acceptable. Urban water security is a big focus for us as it is for many other councils in the Central West.
Maintaining the balance
Work life balance is important for councillors; I try to spend as much time with my long suffering very supportive husband, family and friends as I can. I hope to once again take up my interest in family history, gardening and reading when my time in local government comes to a close.
If I could offer any advice to elected officials it would be ‘ears open – mouth closed’, everyone’s opinion is of value and develop a thick skin. I would encourage everyone to consider standing for local council especially women, gender balance, commitment and a diversity of skills and views makes for an effective governing body. Although you do need to be prepared to sacrifice part of your life, this is especially relevant if you live in a small rural community where it takes an hour to pop into the shop for a litre of milk and if you forget what is in your diary just
ask a member of the community – they will be
able to tell you!
It is a difficult thing to be asked to list your achievements; ultimately this is for others to judge. I strive to be the best I can. I make the observation that in local government no one person achieves anything really, it takes a team…I am fortunate enough to have a cohesive supportive robust council, a great staff and importantly a truly wonderful community.
How could I go wrong?