19 March, 2024

New mayor promises to build on relationships

Incoming Somerset mayor, Jason Wendt, has promised to prioritise building relationships between community and council after recording a decisive victory at last Saturday’s local elections.

Newly elected Somerset mayor Jason Wendt (right) celebrating with James Christensen (left) and Gary Fitzgerald (centre).
Newly elected Somerset mayor Jason Wendt (right) celebrating with James Christensen (left) and Gary Fitzgerald (centre).

Mr Wendt defeated Sean Choat in the mayoral race, with unoff icial tally recording a 60 per cent to 40 per cent margin, with over 80 per cent of the votes counted.

Mr Wendt becomes just the second mayor in the Somerset Council’s 16-year history, following the retirement of long-term mayor Graeme Lehmann.

Mr Wendt said he was humbled by the result and his first priority would be to “rebuild the community/ council relationship”.

“I want to do that so people who are interested in what council is doing, feel like they can communicate directly with the councillor team and be involved in the future direction of their own region,” he said.

He added the region had huge potential and was keen to advocate for Somerset to ensure “real change for the future”.

“I ran a basic honest campaign where I showed people who I really am and what vision I had for the Somerset,” Mr Wendt told The Sentinel.

“I think it shows that people want someone who is just a basic person that they can relate to, that speaks on their behalf but isn’t a typical politician.

“There was negative press, both on social and print media, while this dampens your spirits, good country people always use their common sense, so ultimately the truth prevailed.”

Although excited by the result, Mr Wendt said he was tired from the campaign stress and was going to “take a couple of days to recharge” before being officially sworn in.

Counting continues for other divisional candidates, but it appears likely Somerset will have a mix of experience and fresh eyes elected.

Newcomers Tiara Hurley, Sally Jess and Brett Freese will step up to council, bringing their new perspectives and ideas, with sitting councillors Helen Brieschke, Kylee Isidro and Bob Whalley seeming likely to return.

Ms Hurley led the vote counts from the start, sharing Mr Wendt’s sentiment of humbleness and eagerness to engage with the community, working towards positive change.

“My first priority is to actively engage with our residents and listen to their concerns and priorities,” she said.

“By understanding what matters most to our community, I can effectively represent their interests and work towards creating positive change.

Ms Hurley also expressed gratitude to all of her supporters throughout the campaign, and said she was going to work to win over those who didn’t vote for her.

“I am committed to working hard and proving myself as a dedicated councillor who will always prioritise the needs of our community,” she said.

Re-elected for a fourth term, Cr Brieschke said she was keen to “support our new councillors as they learn their roles”.

“It is an absolute honour to have been re-elected to Somerset Regional Council and I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the support of our community and will continue to perform my role with sincerity and integrity,” she said.

Ms Jess said she was exhilarated and humbled by the support and trust the community has placed in her and was eager to fulfil the responsibilities entrusted to her.

“As a sitting member of Council, the first thing I want to do is connect with my constituents, understand their concerns, and work towards addressing their needs effectively,” she said.

“Winning the local election means a tremendous honour and responsibility to serve my community and implement positive change.

“To those who voted for me, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your trust and support mean everything to me, and I am committed to representing you to the best of my abilities.”

Mr Freese said he was eager to start tackling the issues raised during the campaign and improve community engagement by taking a number of council meetings to various towns in the region, including implementing community forums following the meetings.

“Being part of the new council team, I now have the opportunity to make a difference to our wonderful region and see it reach its full potential.

“The appetite for change and to challenge the way things have always been done is there from the residents and from the new council team.

“As a councillor, I am here to serve the whole region and represent everyone whether they voted for me or not. I look forward to embracing the challenge.”

While not definitive yet, we also congratulate Cr Isidro and Cr Whalley on a likely win, along with all candidates for their efforts.

Brett Freese with supporters.
Brett Freese with supporters.

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