LABOR councillor Donna Davis was elected unopposed as Lord Mayor of Parramatta on January 10.
Sameer Pandey, another Labor councillor, was elected unopposed to the position of deputy Lord Mayor.
Both councillors had served on the previous council and were swept back into power on the Labor wave which saw seven out of 15 councillors coming from the party.
A total of eight women were elected at the December 4 election- three Labor and the rest Independents. No previous Parramatta Council has had so many women, nor has the majority party ruled without any organised opposition.
With the Liberal Party not having contested the election, the new council presents a diversity of voices. Eight councillors are newbies, which will present a challenge to Lord Mayor Davis and other experienced councillors who will be guiding them along the way.
Cr Davis, in the past a vocal critic of the Liberal State Government and of the Liberal-controlled council, especially in regard to over-development that did not respect heritage, vowed to work in the best interests of the City and community.
“I thank you all for giving me the privilege of serving as Lord Mayor and I hope to do justice to the role as it deserves,” Cr Davis said after council CEO Brett Newman adorned her with the lord mayoral chains.
“I am humbled to be given this opportunity.”
Cr Davis said she was excited by “what could be achieved for the City in the next three years”.
Veteran Labor councillor Pierre Esber congratulated Cr Davis but made more of Cr Pandey’s achievement of being the “first councillor from the sub-continent (India) to be elected as deputy Lord Mayor”.
“Your family should be very proud of you,” Cr Esber said. Indeed, Cr Pandey’s family – including his parents who had just arrived from India, were beaming with pride in the audience.
Former deputy Lord Mayor Michelle Garrard congratulated the new Lord Mayor, while reminding Cr Davis that it was vital to “continue to work with stakeholders, giving them certainty” in completion of current important projects such as Parramatta Square.
Cr Garrard, heading the Our Local Community team of four councillors, said OLC would be “pushing Labor” to ensure the interests of the community came first.
Cr Lorraine Wearne, the longest serving councillor and one of only two previous female Lord Mayors, said she hoped Labor would “keep the City on track” and work co-operatively with other councillors, given there was no real opposition.
“I will be giving Labor a run for its money – we are 15 councillors and I would like to see co-operation between us in all five wards, “ Cr Wearne said.
“We are here for people above politics, we are for the community, the thousands of people who voted to put us here.”
Aside from councillors, leading community advocate Suzette Meade, secretary of North Parramatta Residents Action Group, was the first to congratulate the new Lord Mayor.
“I look forward to Cr Davis leading this new-look council that will represent the residents of our City and stand up to the State Government, especially making certain our heritage remains in our great City’s future,” Ms Meade said.
Cr Davis, with her opposition to the demolition of historic Willow Grove to make way for the Powerhouse Museum, could prove to be a thorn in the side of the Liberal State Government.
Cr Davis is proud to have achieved a high enough vote to get her running mate Cameron Mclean elected in Epping Ward, right in Premier Dominic Perrottet’s electorate.
Labor pundits regard the party’s success in Parramatta, and in other councils in Sydney, to be an indication of what is to come in the upcoming Federal election and next year’s NSW election.
As for the new Parramatta Council, there will be interesting times ahead.
Image: New Parramatta Lord Mayor, Donna Davis and deputy, Sameer Pandey.