28 February, 2024

Goodbye to Somerset’s Mayor Graeme Lehmann

Somerset is bidding farewell to its mayor of 20 years, Graeme Lehmann. The last mayor of the now extinct Esk Shire Council and the first and only mayor, so far, of Somerset Regional Council, Mr Lehmann has had a lasting impact on the region.

Graeme waves goodbye from his red Holden ute.
Graeme waves goodbye from his red Holden ute.

Thinking back to his 30-year long local government career, Mr Lehmann has recognised some key challenges he has faced, naming cost pressures as one of the most current ones.

“One of the most disappointing things, I have found, is the cost shifting from State and Federal Government onto Local Government,” he said.

“This shift adds more responsibilities onto Local Government, adding more cost pressure.”

The population growth of the area has also been an ever-growing challenge, even for a rural region like Somerset, and a challenge Mr Lehmann hopes the future mayor will continue to fight.

“I always worked very hard to protect the rural lifestyle, which is getting harder and harder to do as population is pushing further inland,” he said.

“I hope whoever is elected continues to protect this lifestyle and the farms.

“Tourism and small businesses are essential, but so are the rural people and farmers, because without farmers there is no feed.”

He also stated the amalgamation of the Kilcoy and Esk Councils into the Somerset Council, as one of the biggest milestones of his time in off ice.

“Amalgamations of councils can be challenging and some work and some don’t, but I think Esk and Kilcoy did pretty well,” he said.

Regarding the upcoming elections, the outgoing mayor said he takes his hat off to anyone putting their hand up for public office, as it is a hard job, and he gives some advice to all candidates.

“Don’t go into this job with your eyes closed,” he said.

“Get out there and talk to people and make sure you work a balancing act with State and Federal colleagues and the public.

“I always saw my job as ‘get the best possible deal’, which is not always the deal you’d like, but you just have to keep chipping away.”

Despite the challenges, Mr Lehmann is happy with what he has achieved and experienced and will continue to be involved in the community.

“I always looked for every chance to make the region better,” he said.

“Being involved with community groups and being out there with the people has always been my favourite part of the job.

“Somerset will always live on with me and I just love this community and where I live.

“I’ve often called this region ‘God’s own country’ and will always be selling our region wherever I go.”

What motivated Mr Lehmann to get involved in politics to begin with, was to bring a business approach to Council.

“We have owned our business for 48 years and instead of complaining about the issues, I put my hand up to do something about it,” Mr Lehmann said.

Now in retirement, he hopes to travel Australia with his wife and “sit back, relax and enjoy family time”.

“We have always been working 24 hours a day, running a business and then in a public role, so now I just want to be able to travel and see Australia.”

We thank Mr Lehmann for his work and wish him the best of luck in retirement!


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