Former Mayor McAllister looks back on the term that was different on many levels

Former Mayor Fiona McAllister looks back on her mayoral term. 235101_01

By Renee Wood

When Councillor Fiona McAllister stepped into the position as mayor at the ‘in person’ election last November, she was unaware of just how turbulent the year was ahead of her.

The 2020-2021 term was filled with lockdowns from the pandemic and wild storm events, all while Cr McAllister lead the councillors through a virtual realm.

The election was the last time the councillors were in a room together for an ordinary council meeting.

“I haven’t been in the chamber with the current council apart from that very first council meeting, so that was very different,” she said.

The virtual meetings set the tone for a year that was ‘different on many levels’ as she took on the role leading the new councillors after the election.

Alongside zoom becoming the new norm for council meetings, Cr McAllister said ‘WhatsApp’ was the way Councillors could communicate on a regular basis, with the diversity of the group a highlight of her year.

“This now became our way to check in, a way to share information, a way to connect and so that built relationships in ways that we weren’t able to in person.

“So I think we’ve got a lovely dynamic which is surprising given how little time we’ve actually spent in the same room together, I really do think it’s a testament to the personalities of the councillors.”

The CEO also went on leave for three months, which saw her role as mayor change for a period of time.

“That certainly changed the mayoral role because we had our executive team acting up and they all did a great job, but it did mean I had to be appropriately much more active as a mayor.”

The council would lead the region through lockdowns but also a year of complexities brought in by wild weather events.

“There were lots of kinds of quick decisions that I had to make that I probably have not had to make before but still that real focus on community.

“And then of course, the storms keep coming and getting more rain again so certainly it was a really different mayoral year.”

Other highlights were witnessing how the organisation and community sprang into action to help during the storm events.

“That will stick with me as a highlight, how we responded and how caring our communities are to be getting calls day and night from people wanting to drop up generators and make sandwiches and beautiful things.”

The virtual citizenship ceremonies were also an opportunity Cr McAllister enjoyed over the past twelve months.

“It is a very proud moment to be the person as mayor conferring citizenship to people who’ve been fighting for it for a very long time in many cases.”