Mr SPEIRS (Bright) (15:45): It is my great pleasure to rise today to pay tribute to two of the City of Marion’s longest serving elected members, Councillor Cheryl Connor, my former co-councillor in Coastal Ward and Councillor Carol Bouwens, elected representative for Warriaparinga Ward.
Both were elected at the council election of 1997 and have diligently and enthusiastically served for a combined period of 34 years, 17 years each.
Both have served terms as Deputy Mayor, and both have reputations as stalwarts of common-sense, fulfilling their elected member roles with down-to-earth demeanours; pragmatic problem-solving and an avoidance of silly games and power plays, too often the norm in local government.
Councillor Carol Bouwens was born in England and immigrated to Australia by herself as a young woman, working as a secretary to general managers for many years before volunteering in palliative care in the Daw Park Hospice.
Supported and mentored by the late local historian and councillor Bob Donley, Carol put her hand up for public office in the 1997 council elections and has been comfortably elected ever since. She is famed for both her commitment to hard work and for the vibrancy of her hairstyles which can be relied upon to bring a dash of colour to the all-too-often grey proceedings of council meetings!
Much of Carol’s time on council has been focused on building relationships with council staff to get things done in the community. Rather than grandstand and pontificate during council meetings (too often the modus operendi of our council colleagues), Carol has worked diligently behind the scenes to make this stuff happen, in recent years driving the council’s planning around the future of its four sporting and community hubs at Edwardstown, Marion, Mitchell Park and Hallett Cove.
Councillor Cheryl Connor is a Broken Hill girl who moved to Hallett Cove with her husband Dennis in the 1970s, at the time when the suburb was a distant cluster of houses, alongside a line of shacks which looked onto the gulf. After her boys completed school, she found herself increasingly drawn into community service, concerned with Hallett Cove’s lack of transport services, problems caused by youth disengagement, and the area’s need for a community centre and library. From a prominent role in the Hallett Cove Progress Association, she and other members of the community realised that in order to shift Marion Council’s attention onto the needs of the city’s southern suburbs, they would need a strong voice among the elected members. Cheryl was nominated and comfortably elected.
At the time of Cheryl’s election, Hallett Cove was seen as a distant outpost of Marion Council. A land division, over the hill and far away, and which despite rapid population growth, was all too often an irrelevancy to the issues councillors from the plains were advocating.
It is fair to say that when Carol and Cheryl were first elected, the City of Marion was a bit of a basket case. Lumbered with crippling debt, they were part of a team who drove forward an agenda of practical change to reshape the council. They were part of sorting out its financial mess and reaching a point where new investment in community services and infrastructure became possible again.
Much of that investment had to be in the forgotten south of Marion, and with Cheryl’s vigorous advocacy it was forgotten no more. In 2008 the completion of the Patpa Drive connector road linked Sheidow Park to Hallett Cove, initiating a major upgrade of the Hallett Cove Shopping Centre, increasing property values and driving further investment in the community. Other major initiatives advanced under Cheryl’s watch include the delivery of upgraded parks at Pavana Park and Glade Crescent Reserve; the development of a unique Anzac memorial overlooking the gulf Hallett Cove’s foreshore which work will soon begin on, and a upgrade of Cove Sports and Community Club.
But there’s no doubt in my mind that Cheryl’s greatest achievement is the delivery of the Cove Civic Centre, a new community centre, library and enterprise hub, which is currently under construction. Delivering a community centre has been a dream for Hallett Cove residents and councillors for decades, with Cheryl able to pull out newsletters from the Hallett Cove Progress Association from the early nineties which announced the ‘imminent’ go-ahead of this project.
By her own admission she has been reduced to tears as she has fought doggedly to make the community centre go ahead and it was with a sense of jubilation, but also relief, that in 2012 we were able to persuade the council to allocate around $10 million for this project, which was augmented by a further $3 million from the federal government. All Hallett Cove residents look forward to the opening of the centre in early 2015.
Cheryl and Carol, along with retiring long-serving Mayor, Dr Felicity-ann Lewis (who was elected as a councillor along with them in 1997), have formed a dynamic, reliable, service-focused trio for nearly two decades. They will be missed, but they can step down from their roles in community leadership knowing that they have cemented lasting legacies of real change in their communities.
We need far more community servants like them in local government.
Extracted from Hansard