Denmark Shire president to turn tide on toxicity

By Chris Thomson | posted on October 26, 2017

AN AIR of reconciliation pervaded Denmark’s council chambers on Tuesday as Ceinwen Gearon took the chair in the wake of a feral social media campaign that saw her Town Ward colleague David Morrell ousted as councillor and shire president.

At a meeting that started 10 minutes late because returned councillor Mark Allen was tardy, Cr Gearon took the president’s chair at 4.19pm after being elected unopposed.

She noted the election had been an “interesting time” and thanked Mr Morrell – who lost to former Denmark councillor Ian Osborne by 57 votes – for encouraging an “inclusive atmosphere”.

Cr Gearon said outgoing councillor Clem Wright, who lost Kent/Nornalup Ward to former councillor Roger Seeney, also by 57 votes, had been “always very diligent”.

She said the make-up of the new council was a “balanced representation of the shire as a whole”, and the re-election of Cr Allen and Cr Caron offered “continuity”.

Cr Gearon said Crs Seeney and Osborne – the two candidates who won from the five-person ‘Get Denmark back on track’ group of former councillors – offered “huge experience”.

She quipped that first-term councillor Kingsley Gibson was “brand new, never been touched by Denmark Shire”.

“I can only believe he will be a great addition to council,” she said.

Before the meeting, Cr Seeney nominated continuing councillor Peter Caron for deputy mayor.

Rob Whooley nominated his fellow continuing councillor Jan Lewis.

Cr Caron was sworn in, unopposed, at 4.25pm after Cr Lewis declined the nomination.

“The last few weeks have impacted greatly on my family,” Cr Lewis confided, saying they’d been “extremely supportive” and she’d promised them she would not volunteer for higher office.

Despite the tones of three mobile phones chirping mid-meeting, including Cr Osborne’s, the 34 people in the gallery listened intently as Cr Lewis said she’d been impressed by Cr Gearon’s “intelligence and communication skills”.

“I think she’ll do extremely well in that role,” she said of the woman she’d earlier nominated as shire president.

Following Weekender revelations (The Weekender, October 5) that social media campaigning for the election had turned toxic, one member of the gallery, Fiona Ross, asked Cr Gearon how she planned to return harmony to the troubled shire.

“I’m certainly not going to make an attempt to control social media,” Cr Gearon said.

“It did get unpleasant.

“I do think it got very overpowering at the time.”

She said there were lessons to be learned, and it was “possible for us to take control of our own actions”.

At last there was a feeling this was how a country shire should be getting along.