NEWLY ELECTED: Current Councillor Samantha O’Toole has been declared as the new Mayor of the Balonne Shire.
NEWLY ELECTED: Current Councillor Samantha O’Toole has been declared as the new Mayor of the Balonne Shire.

New Mayor of Balonne Shire declared in tight race

SAMANTHA O’Toole has been declared the new Balonne Shire mayor and has vowed to work tirelessly for all corners of the region.

Councillor O’Toole who threw her hat in the ring for mayor for the first time at the Local Government Election last month said she was humbled and honoured at the Shire’s faith in her to lead the region in difficult times.

In a closely contested race, Cr O’Toole defeated current mayor of the Balonne Shire, Richard Marsh with 55.51 per cent of the votes to 44.49 per cent.

Cr O’Toole said with COVID-19 impacting every facet of the region and a dramatic shift in Shire priorities since the start of the election, she is determined to rise to the challenge. “It’s overwhelming and very humbling. I’m really honoured they have chosen me and I look forward to tirelessly working for them,” she said.

Cr O’Toole who elected as a councillor to the Balonne Shire Council four years ago said is planning to hit the ground running with COVID-19 management, undertaking disaster management training.

“I appreciate in the short term the most important thing on our plate is going to be the management of COVID-19 and that will be our first priority,” she said.

“The council is generally used to dealing with natural disasters this will be quite a different challenge going forward. “First and foremost, we need to keep residents and the community safe and then we need to support local businesses and the impact they’ve suffered under the current pandemic.”

The swearing in ceremony for the newly elected members of the Balonne Shire Council will take place at the St George Cultural Centre at 9am on Tuesday, April 14, with social distancing rules to be observed throughout the proceedings

Alongside Cr O’Toole, re-elected councillors Scott Scriven, Robyn Fuhrmeister and Ian Todd, and new councillors Rod Avery, Bill Winks and Richard Lomman will be making their oath of office.

“It’s a really interesting mix. Including myself there are four returning councillors and three new,” Cr O’Toole said.

“It is a shame we couldn’t get more representation from the rural parts of the shire, so it will be a challenge for us how we work with those communities and maintain good relationships.” Cr O’Toole said while she knows the newly elected council has challenges ahead, she is really excited about putting her passion for the region into action.