Teenage rebel to respected councilor

From teenage rebel to a valued deputy Lord Mayor of Parramatta, Michelle Garrard feels well-equipped to help run a major city – thanks to the life-long mentorship of her father, former Lord Mayor (and now Cumberland councillor)
Paul Garrard. Michelle was elected to the council in 2017 on the Our Local Community ticket. OLC was founded by her father, a 45-year local government veteran.

1. Congratulations on being re-elected as deputy Lord Mayor for a record-breaking fourth term. How have you grown over your time in the role and what have you learned?

This term has been challenging as there is a lot going on in Parramatta at the moment. Having been involved in Council prior to being elected has given me a strong grounding and understanding of major projects. I have been able to provide the necessary support to Lord Mayors as their Deputy given my experience and understanding of the council.

2. Learning about local politics at your father’s knee, when did you realize that you wanted to follow in his footsteps?

I became active locally in 2012. Having watched many councilors come and go I formed an opinion I could represent our community better. I knew it was time as my children got older and I was able to manage the commitment.

3. What were you like growing up – an obedient, quiet child or a bit of a rebel?

It could be said I was a bit of a rebel. Like most teens, I butted heads with my parents. However, I believe all my journeys have made me the person I am today.

4. How much does your father influence your decisions and your way of thinking?

My dad Paul Garrard is my mentor. Dad has more than 45 years’ experience and played a major role in Parramatta having been Lord Mayor six times. He is always there to listen and provide continuity on issues in Parramatta (he is a history book), but we are both busy and probably don’t talk enough.

5. As a mother of two teenage girls and a son, how do you balance, work, parenting, and council work?

Being a full-time working mum it has been a balancing act. But all three of my children have been fantastic and completely supportive. I have found being organized is the secret.

6. How can we encourage more women to enter local government?

I think it is hard for women to make the decision to get involved in Local Government. Many of us are full time working mums/wives and council adds another layer to an already busy life we all have. However, I would strongly
encourage women to consider running for the council as it is very rewarding.

I think women have a lot to offer as most of us are very community-focused and are already involved in the community through kids’ sport and school. Council is about community.

7. What is the most common question people ask you about the council?

Well, they are surprised to find out that councilors are not full time and have to balance their council work with jobs.

8. Is there anything you think is missing in Parramatta that you want to work on?

Currently, Parramatta is one of Australia's fastest-growing cities. This is an exciting time. However, I don’t want the State Government to lose sight of what is important to the Parramatta community. The transition of Parramatta should not be at the expense of our history.

A major issue currently is the museum development of our riverbank. The riverbank is not an appropriate location, and I will continue to support the community's objection regarding the location of this project and to protect the heritage building impact by the proposed plan.

Additionally, I would like to focus on local infrastructure needs and upgrades particularly relating to ur parks and sporting fields to complement the growth and investment in Parramatta.

9. What are your interests away from the council matters?

As I work full-time Council is my interest. Some people have hobbies, I have a Council.

BY DI BARTOK

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