A long list: New Swan Hill mayor's strong grounding

SWAN Hill's new mayor Ann Young has no shortage of items on her agenda, but comes to the role with enthusiasm and a strong grounding in the local community. 

Major issues she considers to be facing the municipality include the development of the local hospital, mobile black spots, road condition and rail services. 

Cr Ann Young is still in her first term on council, having served as deputy mayor and now mayor. Pictures: CAITLIN McARTHUR

Cr Ann Young is still in her first term on council, having served as deputy mayor and now mayor. Pictures: CAITLIN McARTHUR

Also on council's radar is a housing shortage in both Robinvale, and increasingly, Swan Hill. 

The 69-year-old was born and raised in the Mallee, and completed all of her education, primary school through to university level here.

While many move away to complete higher education Cr Young said she never felt the need to leave. 

"I have done quite a lot of study over the years, I did get accepted into university and teacher's college and I decided to stay and do it here," she said. 

"I have quite a few qualifications now, but they have all been done from home, locally."

Cr Young said she didn't believe completing her studies this way really made them harder, although it did stretch out the study period on some of them. 

A trainer at TAFE for "quite a few years", Cr Young said she had taught "just about everything".

"I answered an ad in the paper to start to teach night time accounting and it just went from there," she said.

"I loved it, (interaction with students) and also I did a lot of work in the horticulture and agriculture area.

"We have a stone fruit property so I was pretty involved in industry activity and associations and knew a lot of the growers, and it was something I really enjoyed."

Cr Young has been involved in no shortage of community organisations over the years, but said she always wanted to "achieve more". 

"Over the years, I suppose I have been involved with lots of organisations and situations, whether it was the ag and horticulture industry or education, community, business, lots of times I would walk out of meetings I had been involved in and thought, 'I wonder if I could have achieved more if I had of been on council'," she said. 

"There's been different things happening in my life that I wasn't able to do it over many years, but through the encouragement of my husband and family I went down that path, put my hand up and have found I was very right to think you can achieve a lot more, because local government has arms and legs into just about everywhere."

Cr Young is still in her first term on council, having served as deputy mayor and now mayor but said the position was not originally in her sights when elected. 

"I think when you grow up in a town and you're involved in lots of things, you look at the mayor sitting up there and you think, 'That's probably something I'll never do', or you don't even think about it. So it is a great honour to get to that point."

Cr Young said there was a "fair bit going on" in the Swan Hill region at the moment. 

"The development of the hospital is the big one," she said.

"My husband was very ill for quite a long time and we were travelling to Bendigo all the time, we need to be able to access those services here.

"There were so many people down there in waiting rooms and all over the city spending a lot of money that could be spent here, but also dealing with situations that put them under a lot more stress."

Cr Young said she also wanted to see continued development of solar farms in the region and mobile data black spots addressed. 

"We need to try and eliminate the mobile data black spots because we need our businesses being able to access those things to run their businesses properly these days," she said. 

Cr Young said she would also like to see a better train service to Swan Hill and improved roads in different areas to service agribusiness. 

"Also Robinvale, we have been doing a lot of work up there and we will also be needing to do that in Swan Hill because there is a shortage of housing, whether you are talking about permanent housing or a shortage of short term accommodation," she said.

"Because we have had a lot going on here, there are a lot of tradesmen in the district and a lot of people now coming to work in the different service areas, whether you are talking about mental health or just those general sorts of areas, it is often difficult for people to get accommodation."

Cr Young said the Swan Hill bridge and riverfront precinct remained priorities, as did upgrading the recreation reserves in the region.

"[It] will be a long-term project, because sport is so important in our area and so important in the rural areas, that we have some plan in place to get those facilities upgraded and keep the people here and keep the people active," she said. 

Cr Young said council would need to lobby for farmers doing it tough in the dry conditions, but added not all in the district were feeling the pressure. 

"We have two different things happening, we have those that are doing it tough and then we have those who are actually going ahead in leaps and bounds," she said. 

"But, we also have ones who have had difficulty because they haven't had rain over the last few years, so they're suffering and need some support to get them through. I suppose one of our roles will be lobbying for programs to be in place to actually support them."

Cr Young is one of few women to have held the role of mayor at Swan Hill Rural City Council, and said she would like to see more women put their hand up for local governance. 

"It's quite exciting and an honour actually," she said. 

"I would [like to see more women] but I think it is often quite difficult for young mothers to take on the role when they have a lot of other responsibilities and kids are involved in sport and all sorts of things.

"But, I think women bring a bit of a different viewpoint to things, so it is great to have Lea Johnson on there as a fellow woman."

Cr Young said she welcomed council's decision not to elect a deputy mayor for the new term. 

"I think it is a good move because it gives everybody the opportunity to chair some council meetings and opportunity to chair more of the assemblies," she said.

"Being in the position, I was as deputy mayor, I am going into the position of mayor with some experience in that area."

Cr Young said she encouraged ratepayers to bring their concerns to her and her fellow councillors. 

"Yes, all of us get phone calls, all of the time about a range of issues and we are pleased to do that," she said.

"We're pleased to bring it to the attention of the city council directors and see what might be able to be done with it, sometimes it is a long process, but we try our hardest to actually address people's issues.

"Sometimes it's not possible, but we try."

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