Call for popular mayor vote 

At monday’s meeting councillor Lee Watts asked council to seek community views on introducing a popular vote for mayor, at the same elections that choose the council. 

The change would require a referendum, probably at the same time as a council election or by-election.

Council general manager Daryl Dutton said the views of the community on changing the way the shire mayor is elected could be tested with a survey as part of the council’s community planning process which begins in November.

Asked after the meeting if he would vote for a change to a popular election, mayor Michael Johnsen said he would not.

“I would vote against that and I say that from the position of being on both sides of the fence,” Cr Johnsen said.

“I’ve both won and lost mayoral elections under this system and I am firmly of the view that the councillors develop a more in depth understanding of their  fellow councillors’ skills and abilities. 

“They take away the popularity contest and install a person who has the ability to represent the community and advocate on behalf of the community and be across the business aspect of running a council.”

Cr Johnsen noted that only 35 NSW mayors are popularly elected, while 117 have the same system as the Upper Hunter Shire.