Willox winds up

AFTER being a Stirling councillor for a quarter of a century, Rod Willox is calling it a day.

“I’ll be turning 80 in January, and I’ve seen men hang on too long,” he says.

A retired colonel who went on to work in medical science, Cr Willox says he’d prefer to stand down “on a good note, on my own terms”.

“You’d be surprised how many people don’t want me to go: I’ve had some really very flattering emails and phone calls, and people saying ‘surely you’ve got another term in you’.”

But with 12 grandkids and a desire to spend more time in the garden (and maybe learn oil painting) he says it’s time to go.

• Rod Willox at Hamer Park. Photo by Steve Grant

Cr Willox, who was made an AM in 2003 for services to local government along with his work for veterans, says it’s been a “satisfying” time since being elected to council in 1993, ushering through projects like the Beaufort Street activity corridor plan, the Mount Lawley heritage protection area, the North Road redevelopment (turning it from a speedway into an accident- free street), and pushing for underground power for Inglewood and Menora (he says “I advocated for it over a number of years, so much that Colin Barnett got sick of me).

He’s contested numerous council elections but he says he’s never seen anything like the mudslinging going on in the Osborne and Hamersley wards in the lead up to this year’s elections. New candidates have waged highly negative online campaigns against council incumbents.

“I never have seen anything like this,” sighs Willox.

“There’s never been any unpleasantness or dirt. It’s always been a gentlemanly process.”

Vitriol

At one election, his opponent even called him early in the morning after the vote was in to congratulate him for winning.

He believes the vitriol this time around is because councillors are paid a fair bit of cash, whereas previously it was considered a voluntary role.

“When I first came onto council, it cost us,” rather than earning a wage, he says. “Then they brought in some sitting fees, just babysitting money.”

With councillors now getting far higher sitting fees, Cr Willox believes this can “attract the wrong sorts” and that’s led to the caustic electioneering in some wards.

Five candidates have nominated to replace him in Lawley ward, and he believes former councillor Paul Collins is the best option.

He previously served alongside Mr Collins and says he’s a “very impressive fellow. I’ve said to him a few times—Paul we need you back.

“He’s by far the best councillor I’ve come across”.

Cr Willox says the Lawley ward will need a strong voice as right now the area “doesn’t get our fair slice of the cake, that’s my view,” with a lot of the city’s funds directed towards the beachside wards.

For 15 years now he’s been trying to get the club rooms at Hamer Park and Inglewood Oval redeveloped.

He says they’re ancient and need restoring or replacing, and it’d also make sense to switch the adult team over to Inglewood Park, where they can have their post-game parties away from residential homes (who’ve long complained of the rowdy sessions), and bring the junior teams over to Hamer Park, where they’d be quieter neighbours.

He says it’s a sensible move but “it’s been deferred and deferred” while projects in the beach wards get money pumped into them.

“I’m sorry to go while it’s unresolved,” he says.

But overall he thinks the city’s in a pretty good place compared to his early days on council when it was highly factionalised between Team Red and Team Blue.

The city was almost unworkable back then, he says.

“People sat at different tables at meal times.

“It was adversarial. But within two years that was sorted out, and now we work pretty well as a council without factions…the city’s well managed and we’re debt free.”

by DAVID BELL

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