MORE than 120,000 voters will visit polling booths in 13 different local government areas across the north today to nominate their preferred candidates in the 2012 local government elections.

Forty thousand of them are in the Tamworth Regional Council area.

Incumbent Tamworth mayor Col Murray took time to reflect yesterday on a number of achievements of the council and its councillors over the past four years.

He said highlights over thepast four years included the Barraba pipeline, the Tamworth Waste Water Treatment Plan, discussions with the community and State Water surrounding the augmentation and safety upgrade of Chaffey Dam and the development of the 10-year community strategic plan.

“Through that process we have been able to put intoperspective the community’s expectations for the future,”Cr Murray said.

“Over the past four years there has been a lot of development and investment in capital infrastructure but moving forward the council will need to be focused on maintaining what we have in terms of that infrastructure, roads and bridges.”

Cr Murray attributed some of the council’s success over the past four-year term to the cohesive relationship of its councillors.

“We have over the four years enjoyed something many other councils across the state don’t,” Cr Murray said.

“There haven’t been any fractions politically or otherwise, the goal and purpose of the council has been to do what’s best for the region and each councillor has done that by making informed and focused decisions on the job at hand.”

All nine of Tamworth’s current councillors: Col Murray, Russell Webb, Warren Woodley, Helen Tickle, Ray Tait, James Treloar, Juanita Wilson, Paul Durant and Phil Betts are standing for re-election, as well as seven new candidates: Sandy Allan, Danny Ballard, Barry Biffen, Tim Coates, Judith Edmunds, Mark Rodda, and Kimberley Sherwood.

Cr Murray said he felt the achievements and successes of the current team of councillors was a result of their collaboration and communal goal of working for the Tamworth region’s greater good.

Today’s trip to the polls marks a significant change in the make-up of some of the north’s councils too.

When elections were called in June, a number of long-term councillors indicated they had chosen not to stand for re-election in the next term, among them Armidale mayor Peter Ducat and Gunnedah mayor Adam Marshall.

Mr Ducat announced he would not stand for re-election in June.

Now 65, Mr Ducat said he did not intend to pursue any other political callings but would instead “wind down”.

He served as a councillor since 2000, served as deputy mayor from 2001 to 2005 and the city’s mayor since 2005.

Armidale’s election result is likely to be an interesting one.

A total of 31 candidates have nominated for the nine available seats in Armidale and a number of the candidates have been endorsed by political parties; five by the Liberal Party; five Greens; and six independents.

The remaining candidates did not indicate their party affiliation.

Of the 10 incumbents at Armidale six nominated for re-election: Rob Richardson, Colin Gadd, Chris Halligan, Jim Maher, Dorothy Robinson and Herman Beyersdorf.

There will be a change of the guard at Gunnedah too, following today’s vote.

While current mayor Adam Marshall will undertake a “caretaker” role as Gunnedah Shire mayor until another is elected at the first council meeting after elections, he announced in June he would not stand for re-election, instead choosing to move to Armidale to pursue further studies.

A record eight women are among the 16 nominees to stand in Gunnedah.

Among them former mayor Gae Swain who retired in 2008 – when Mr Marshall came to the helm – after 17 years on council.

In addition to Mr Marshall, Gunnedah councillors Steve Benham, Kevin Martin and Leon Mills also chose not to seek re-election.

Gunnedah’s incumbents Steve Smith, Tim Duddy, Gwen Griffen and Hans Allgayer are all on today’s ballot, along with 10 new nominees.

HEADING TO THE POLLS: More than 124,000 voters are expected to indicate their preferences when they head to the local government election polling booths today. Photo: Geoff O’Neill 070912GOG01

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