John Bowell: Looking forward to life after council

FORMER councillor John Bowell has expressed mixed emotions at his unsuccessful re-election campaign.

Having received the highest number of first preference votes in the 2008 Kempsey Shire Council elections, he received the lowest of the ungrouped candidates this time.

“It was surprising and I’m disappointed, but I’m not unhappy,” he said. “My wife Fay and I have adopted the view that we’re now looking forward to life after local government.”

Mr Bowell served for 17 years on Kempsey Shire Council - including five years as mayor and two years as deputy mayor.

He had been employed in local government since 1947, and since 1958 in the Macleay and Kempsey shire councils, before being elected as a councillor in 1995.

There is a great deal of pride and no regrets for Mr Bowell for his contribution to the council here.

He cited his contribution to the establishment of the PCYC, lobbying for funds towards an upgraded Kempsey District Hospital, and his support for Macleay Valley tourism - and the council’s caravan parks in particular - as being among his most significant.

“As mayor between 1996 and 1998, (we) established the ‘Made on the Macleay’ showcase,” Mr Bowell said. “At (one of the earliest events) we had Slim Dusty as a guest and sprung the idea of the Slim Dusty Centre.

“I suggested it would be good to have it here. The Slim Dusty Centre will be an icon, and we need icons to attract people off the bypass.”

While he no longer sits at the council chambers, he will continue to push for improved mental health services at Kempsey hospital, in particular for an Aboriginal mental health section and an outreach program for the 18-to-25 years age group.

“Other outcomes I’d like to see are on Closing the Gap, preparation for flooding occurrences and a review of the council’s organisation structure,” Mr Bowell said. “If there’s one single thing I’d single out, it’s economic development - benefitting existing industry and business and attracting new industry and business to create new employment.”

Mr Bowell believes there should be greater sharing of resources with neighbouring councils, to help reduce overheads, but is not in favour of fully fledged amalgamation.

“I wish council every success in the future and I’d echo the words of a new councillor (Bruce Morris), who said he did not want it to become Kempsey-centric,” he said.

For Fay Bowell, having more time with her spouse is a good election outcome.

“It will be good to have my husband back after 17 years,” she said. “I’m looking forward to making plans to visit the children up north without having to consult the diary.”

Mr Bowell said the grin never left his wife’s face on the day after the election.

“Quite frankly, the community have done me a favour,” he said.

The couple has three children - a daughter working with the Red Cross in South Africa, a son currently in Ireland and another son on the Gold Coast.

As well as more regular golf, Mr Bowell will maintain long associations he shares with Fay among community groups that include the Kempsey Silver Band, the Hospital Auxiliary, the swimming club and the Macleay River Historical Society.

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