The mayor of Port Stephens Bruce MacKenzie won't stand at September election as he calls time on local government tenure

STUMPS: Port Stephens Mayor Bruce MacKenzie will retire from local government at the September 9 election. Nearly 50 years after he was first elected, he's confident no one will replicate the feat. Picture: Sam Norris

STUMPS: Port Stephens Mayor Bruce MacKenzie will retire from local government at the September 9 election. Nearly 50 years after he was first elected, he's confident no one will replicate the feat. Picture: Sam Norris

He’s not scared of a fight and if he stood again, there’s no doubt in his mind, he’d win.

But “the time’s right” to retire, the Port Stephens Mayor Bruce MacKenzie said.

“I’m leaving council in a good position,” he said.

“It won’t be repeated, no one will achieve what I have. My funeral song is going to be ‘I did it my way’.”

Next year would have marked 50 years since he was first elected. 

In that time he’s built a reputation for “getting things done”.

He laughed off questions the decision might have been health related, because of cancer or any other ailment.

“No, I don’t have cancer, I’ve had shingles,” he said.

“Next year I’m 80, it’s time to do other things.”

He’s remained on council aside from a brief period between 2000 and 2008.

“Even then I was still ringing up council getting stuff done,” he said.

“I’ve had a great relationship with the staff and I understand the technical matters which has allowed me to do things I shouldn’t have been able to.”

In some ways his final term as mayor has been the hardest. Despite being labeled financially fit for the future the state government said a merger between Port Stephens and Newcastle should be investigated. 

Cr MacKenzie didn’t want Newcastle’s hands on his council’s property assets – investment’s in Newcastle that continue to return $2.1 million annually in rent.

So began the fight and some explosive comments.

“I led the charge on that, with ‘blowing up Stockton Bridge’,” he said.

“The amalgamation discussions were hard. I defended the idea of Newcastle taking 100 per cent on the airport which would have disappointed Port Stephens residents.” 

The term stretched to five years under the merger cloud. All the while the independence of his councillors was questioned after it was revealed he contributed to their 2012 election campaigns. 

“With the exception of a couple of councillors it’s been one of the best councils for getting things done,” Cr MacKenzie said.

Cr MacKenzie hit back at the critics who had said he’d only served on council to feather his own nest.

“It’s absolute bullshit,” he said.

“I’m hundreds of thousands of dollars poorer for being on council, what I’ve done for the community.

“I’m satisfied with my efforts over the years.”

The announcement blows open the September 9 election.

Among the confirmed mayoral candidates are Tomaree Business Chamber president Ryan Palmer, Labor’s endorsed candidate Des Maslen and East ward councillor Sally Dover.

“I reckon I could I could run another successful campaign and win again,” Cr MacKenzie said.

“Mr Maslen and his comments he wants to vote me out, it doesn’t worry me.

“Wherever I go I get a lot of support, I get people coming up to me in the supermarket all the time. Whoever is elected in September, not one of them will replicate what I’ve achieved.”

I'M OUT: Cr Bruce MacKenzie has not nominated for re-election and has announced his retirement from September. Picture: Sam Norris

I'M OUT: Cr Bruce MacKenzie has not nominated for re-election and has announced his retirement from September. Picture: Sam Norris

His advice, blunt.

“I’ve had a great relationship with the staff,” Cr MacKenzie said.

“[But] you’re in for a shock, once you get in there you can’t do whatever you like to, you can’t change the world.”

Striking a more conciliatory tone, he offered:

“Don’t be frightened of debt. We’ve just borrowed $6 million for projects from Seaham to Tanilba, and Swan Bay to Nelson Bay. It just makes sense when interest rates are low.”

Outside of council, there’s plenty to keep him busy including his 10,000 acre cattle property at Gloucester.

“What I will miss is helping the little old ladies who call me up, the ones who have been knocked back by the tree-huggers on council, at the end of the day when I get that dangerous tree down,” Cr MacKenzie said.

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