A health pandemic, bushfires and floods have made the past few years challenging for our community and have not only tested the resilience of the Macleay Valley, but also the leadership role of Kempsey Shire mayor Liz Campbell.
The Argus sat down with outgoing the mayor to reflect on her last five years in the top job.
She was first elected to council in 2008 and has been serving as mayor since 2011.
"The events that have happened to us recently have really put pressure on us, on how we have to adapt quickly, to react to things as they come up," Cr Campbell said.
"But when something comes up like a flood or the fires, you have to still try and do business as usual, but your focus shifts to a community approach.
"And even though we aren't lead agencies in any of those, we very much are a supporting agency."
Reflecting over the recent challenges the region has faced, Cr Campbell said the Black Summer bushfires in 2019 struck a chord personally.
"With the bushfires I spend a lot of time talking to people and was up river quite a lot, and when you talk to people, and hear all of those terrible stories, you take on a little bit of it yourself personally, and you can't help but feel for how terribly affected they have been," Cr Campbell said.
"But as mayor what I was totally focused on was making sure there was something I could advocate for, if there was something we could do better, some way I could help the community to move on quicker and get a result, that was it."
A highlight over the past term for her was achieving 89 per cent of what council set out to do in its Delivery Program.
"Probably the biggest thing I think that defines these five years of council, is that we took the decision to have an external cultural review of the whole organisation," Cr Campbell said.
"We knew it could operate better, we knew we could get better results for the community, so we employed a consultancy firm and wanted them to have a look at everything, and restructure how we could do things better."
She said it was hard for her to list her favourite achievement because she was proud of a lot of things the council had recently done, but said the replacement of the 56 timber bridges in the shire was "a big yes moment".
"Of course there's things we could have done better, but overall there has been positive change here, things have happened, and we are starting to make a difference," Cr Campbell said.
"There's still a long way to go and it is now time to revise our community plan. The next 12 months we will almost double our operating budget, so I think we've worked really hard to make sure our plans are working towards a great future here."
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