Karen McKeown has been elected as the new Mayor of Penrith.
The Labor Councillor defeated Liberal-aligned Marcus Cornish 11 votes to four at tonight’s Mayoral election.
She becomes the first female Mayor of Penrith since Jackie Greenow a decade ago.
The Weekender revealed 12 months ago that a secret deal to install Kevin Crameri as Mayor for 2015-16 had been left in tatters, with Cr McKeown favourite to secure the job.
Ms McKeown replaces outgoing Mayor Ross Fowler, who ended his two year stint at tonight’s meeting. However, Cr Fowler nominated for Deputy Mayor and was successful, defeating Jackie Greenow nine votes to six.
Cr Cornish’s four votes came from himself, Kevin Crameri, Maurice Girotto and Jim Aitken. It is further evidence that Cr Aitken’s rift with fellow Liberal-aligned Councillors is very real.
Cr McKeown said it was a huge honour to take on the top job.
“I believe the people of Penrith will be proud politics has taken a back seat in favour of stability and common sense,” she said.
“I’m both ecstatic and humbled to be elected Mayor of Penrith. As some of you may have guessed, gender equality is a passion of mine. I’m only the fifth woman to be elected Mayor of Penrith.”
Cr McKeown said she would build on the good work already underway at Council.
“The true power of Penrith lies in its people, its ideas, its innovation, its collaboration, and commitment,” she said.
“My aim is to build on the good work that has already commenced. Programs such as the Mayoral Challenge, the Penrith Blue Mountains Hawkesbury Alliance, the community panel, the Property Advisory Panel but to name a few. I am committed to developing more programs to celebrate our river to better connect with the community.”
Fellow Councillors paid tribute to Cr Fowler, saying he tackled critical issues for Council.
“One of the things you’ve really had your hands on is the strategic alliance with Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains Councils,” Cr Mark Davies said to Cr Fowler.
“Not only through forming alliances but being an influential voice with State Government.”
Labor’s John Thain also praised the outgoing Mayor.
“I think we’ve been very well served, you should be very proud of what you’ve achieved over these years, I know you’ve put your heart and soul into it,” he said.
Labor’s Prue Car labelled Cr Fowler an “institution” in Penrith.
Cr Kevin Crameri recognised the irony in the fact that even Liberal-aligned Councillors voted for Cr McKeown.
“I think I’m the only person that’s served with all five female Mayors. Congratulations, you must be the best person in the room, because even the Liberal party voted for you over their own people,” he said.
Cr McKeown was elected to Council in 2004, 2008 and 2012 and served as Deputy Mayor in 2006-07. This is the first time she will wear the Mayoral robes.
She holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree and is active on many community organisations and committees including the Australian Local Government Women’s Association NSW and the Joint Ministerial Advisory Council on Women in Local Government.
Penrith almost had an all-female leadership team, with independent Jackie Greenow nominating for Deputy Mayor. However, she was defeated by Cr Fowler nine votes to six.
– Troy Dodds and Dale Drinkwater