Ron thinks it's time for change
IF MAYOR Ron Bellingham could have his time over again, he would have plunged into a political career much earlier in life.
Now in his 70s and after 12 years in local government, the first leader of the newly amalgamated Southern Downs Regional Council will not compete to serve a second term come election time in March.
The former Warwick Shire Council mayor made the announcement yesterday, saying he'd always made it clear four years with the newly formed council would be his lot.
Reflecting on his time in local government, he told the Daily News he would love to have continued in the role, but he knew in his heart the time was right for him to give up.
"I got into politics because I was sick of sitting on the outside and thinking, 'that's wrong'," Cr Bellingham said.
"I did a fair bit of criticising but it's quite different to get involved.
"I would love to go back and if I had my time over I would do it earlier than what I eventually did."
Cr Bellingham refused to be drawn on whether he had a successor in mind, laughing candidly and saying he thought his position needed some "new blood".
"I think it's time now for a change," he said.
"This gives the opportunity to put in a changed council that will perhaps have the energy and enthusiasm and drive that's needed in the community.
"I compliment this council even though it had its challenges putting together two very different councils."
Not willing to disclose a name, he did say that any potential mayoral candidates should have confidence in themselves and their ability to do the job.
Cr Bellingham, a businessman by trade, said he didn't think previous experience in local government was essential to be mayor.
"I do hope someone with that ability will step forward and I'm sure they will do a better job than I've done," he said.
And if no such candidate sticks up their hand, Cr Bellingham laughed off suggestions he may need to change his decision.
"I don't want my wife to kill me," he said.
Cr Bellingham said the sealing of the Warwick Aerodrome and the new Warwick streetscape were some of his more satisfying achievements in local government.
"I believe the streetscape was partially responsible for Warwick Shire starting to appreciate who they were and what they had," he said.
While he said he's enjoyed the people and the challenges, he wasn't coy in saying the past four years weren't quite as satisfying.
"Bringing two councils with two different cultures together was probably the biggest challenge, trying to get that singular culture," he said.
"I don't know that we've achieved it yet."
Gardening, travelling, flying and helping the family business will fill the gap left when he stands down.
YEARS OF SERVICE
Cr Bellingham was first elected mayor of Warwick Shire Council in 2000 - beating then-incumbent mayor Bruce Green - and was re-elected in 2004.
In 2008 he became the first mayor of the amalgamated Southern Downs Regional Council, combining the former Warwick and Stanthorpe shires.