Port Stephens has elected a new mayor in former tennis pro turned bank manager and business advocate, Ryan Palmer.
Voters threw their support behind the 30-year-old father of two at the council election on Saturday.
“The phone has run off the hook since Saturday from everyone wanting to congratulate me,” he said.
“I think people are genuinely excited about the new council and I’m not just talking about myself, I’m talking about the others too.”
The final makeup is unlikely to be determined before Friday but he referred to candidates like his number two, Glen Dunkley, central ward Independent Sarah Smith and Labor’s Giacomo Arnott in the west – all new faces joining council.
“It’s now up to me to repay that faith,” Mr Palmer said,
“I want to put the council in a better place by the time we end this term.”
Mr Palmer scored a resounding win at the polls with 35.36 per cent of first preference votes, before the final count on Wednesday night.
“Once I’m sworn in my first step will be to bring all the councillors together and set a direction for the next three years,” he said.
“We’re not going to agree on everything but it’s really important that we have those shared goals and that we work together.”
Webcasting will be part of his effort to run a consultative council.
“I’ll be a full time mayor, I won’t be taking any other work,” he said.
“I want to get a grasp of what people want and it’s important that the people feel that the council is acting on their behalf. Part of that will be having the webcams so people can watch the meetings and it’s important people feel like we’re not just this building at Raymond Terrace where all the decisions are made.”
Sally Dover, who has served the council for 13 years as east ward councillor, was a distant second to Mr Palmer.
Of the 42,644 eligible first preference votes Cr Dover received 7578 votes (17.77 per cent).
And she’s conceded she won’t make the final three for east ward – likely to be Jaimie Abbott, John Nell and Mr Dunkley – ending her tenure.
“That’s life, change happens and you have to go with it,” Cr Dover said.
“Ryan did very well and I have already congratulated him.”
Cr Dover said she had no regrets.
“I’ve had 13 years on council and we’ve left it in better shape than when we started,” she said.
“We’re going to have a lot of fresh blood on council, it’s very much a case of out with the old and in with the new.”
She wished Giacomo Arnott, Jaimie Abbott and Sarah Smith the best of luck.
“They’re going to have a steep learning curve but they’re in it for the right reasons and I’m hopeful they’ll have a positive impact,” Cr Dover said.
“I’m sure there will be other opportunities for me to help in this community.”
Cr Steve Tucker was also unsuccessful in his mayoral tilt on 14.03 per cent of before-preference votes but will continue to serve as a central ward councillor.
“It’s clear people want a fresh approach,” he said.
“It’s incumbent on the councillors to get behind Ryan – he’s got a clear mandate.”