Advocate for economic diversity and growth
BEAUTIFICATION, road infrastructure and boosting tourism are at the forefront of Samantha O’Toole’s mind as she goes up against incumbent mayor Richard Marsh in the March 28 Local Government election.
As an advocate for pursuing opportunities for economic diversity and growth, the current Balonne Shire councillor has a strong agenda in assisting in the vibrancy of the district, if elected to the top job.
Cr O’Toole said with her nine years working as the Economic Development and Events Officer for the Balonne council and now her four years as a councillor, nominating herself for mayor was the next opportunity to work with the community.
“The Balonne Shire has a really unusual situation with seven towns with competing interests,” Cr O’Toole said.
“Every town has their own uniqueness and the ability for beautification. We need some further infrastructure improvements and local roads continue to be a big issue – these will be a major priority in the next term.”
Over the last council term, Cr O’Toole said she is most proud of the exclusion fencing which she is an avid advocate for, as well as the town planning scheme and the local law reform.
Cr O’Toole who has called Balonne Shire home for the past 20 years with her husband, Jason and their children.
She said her young family motivated her to work towards creating a bright future for the next generation of Balonne Shire residents.
“I held back from nominating, until I was confident that with all these conflicting interests of mine I would be able to put in the time that it requires to be mayor,” she said.
“I didn’t want to nominate and then do a half-hearted job because if I commit to something - I put in 110 per cent.”
Cr O’Toole said while the shire is in high spirits after the recent rainfall, she knows that some challenges still lie ahead.
“Drought is an ongoing issue - we have had some beautiful rain but not all the shire has received it, there are still some properties that has missed out,” she said.
“Recovery from the drought will play a part moving forward for the next couple of years.
“It will be quite challenging, but after some decent rain it’s given us all optimism for the future.”
As part of previously managing the tourism unit for the Balonne Shire, Cr O’Toole said she knows how to capitalise on tourists travelling through the shire and thinks any initiatives, including the recent ‘Welcome Mate’ campaign will help boost the economy.
“Tourism is a great driving force in our economy, particularly in the winter months. We have lots of events large and small like the upcoming 399 Offroad race, campdrafts and shows that draw people to us,” she said.
“With the new thermal hot springs, we’ve been able to capitalise on that grey nomad travelling market and we’ve been working really hard on the beautification of the smaller towns.
“We’ve had really positive feedback from residents and businesses about what this tourism has meant to them.”
Cr O’Toole said she is determined to give every town in the shire an equal voice, and while all candidates are from St George besides two who hail from Bollon, if elected she will endeavour to keep a link between council and the outlying towns.
“This term because we didn’t have a lot of representations from the smaller towns, each Councillor adopted a town to get out to the small communities, so they feel they have a link which I think is really important to continue,” she said.
“We need good representation of all the towns in the shire, as everyone is so passionate about their towns.
“I would never say that I know all the answers to all the questions or challenges that we may face, but you can be assured I will listen, learn and make my decisions with the people of Balonne at heart.”