EXCLUSIVE: Fowler set to be next Mayor

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Ross Fowler is set to be elected Mayor on Monday

Liberal Councillor Ross Fowler is tipped to become Penrith’s next Mayor when votes are cast during the Mayoral Election on Monday night.

Both the Mayor and Deputy Mayor positions are up for grabs, with incumbent John Thain and his deputy, Councillor Tricia Hitchen, bowing out.

The contest for the top job is likely to be a two-horse race, with Independent Councillor Marcus Cornish confirming he will also throw his hat into the ring in protest of a covert deal brokered four years ago between Labor and Liberal councillors, which allegedly sees them take turns at holding the leadership positions.

He said the fact the result was partly preordained was “usurping democracy”.

“The people have a right to know Liberal and Labor are working together and there is no difference, and Independent councillors are being isolated and not listened to,” he said.

“The problem is they vote along party lines and rather than have an Independent having the balance of power or the casting vote between Labor and Liberal, they decided to go between themselves.”

Marcus Cornish will nominate for the Mayoral position on Monday

Labor Councillors Greg Davies and relative newcomer Aaron Duke, as well as Independent Councillor Kevin Crameri are expected to vie for Deputy Mayor.

Councillor Crameri conceded he could not win, but did not want to vote as part of the block.

Councillor Karen McKeown also hosed down speculation she would run for Deputy, saying she would be turning her attention to toppling Penrith MP Stuart Ayres in the State Election.

“My time is taken up with being the Labor candidate for the seat of Penrith,” she said.

“All my efforts will be directed towards that end in six months’ time.”

The Weekender understands no Labor councillors have nominated for Mayor, nor Liberal for Deputy Mayor, giving credence to the notion that it will be a Liberal Mayor and Labor Deputy Mayor this time around – however nominations can be accepted up to and during Monday night’s meeting at the Council chambers.

Councillor Bernard Bratusa said he would wait until he saw the final line-up before deciding who to back.

“I will be looking forward to seeing who actually puts their hands up,” he said.

Bernard Bratusa. Photo: Melinda Jane

If successful, it will be Cr Fowler’s fourth term as Mayor, having served in 1995-1996 before being elected in September 2013 and again the following year.

He said regardless of the outcome, the city would be in good hands.

“It is a very exciting period in our history in terms of the next couple of generations,” he said.

Councillors Thain and Hitchen said they had thoroughly enjoyed leading the City, but family commitments prevented them from recontesting their positions.

Outgoing Penrith Mayor John Thain. Photo: Melinda Jane

Mayoral terms now run for two years, which means if all goes to plan on Monday night Cr Fowler will lead the city until the next local government election in 2020.

Alena Higgins

Alena Higgins is the Weekender’s Court Reporter

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