THE Hills deputy mayor Andrew Jefferies became our new mayor last night.
Cr Michelle Byrne handed over the mayoral chains to Cr Jefferies while she stepped into his role as deputy mayor.
She will also become the Liberal Party campaign manager for the seat of Seven Hills for the March 2015 state election.
But his triumph was overshadowed by his Labor colleagues’ decision to boycott the meeting.
Although they attended a time capsule sinking ceremony at the council earlier in the night, Labor councillors Ray Harty, Tony Hay and Ryan Tracey left the building before election.
Cr Harty said the boycott came on the back of community upset over the way mayors were elected in The Hills.
Some residents — many of them Liberal voters — had asked that they consider ‘‘making a statement’’ about their disatisfaction, which is what they did by being ‘‘seen’’ to not support the election.
Cr Harty said the mayor had been determined by ‘‘external influences’’ before the meeting.
‘‘Labor has never done this. Our rules would prevent that,’’ he said.
Cr Jefferies said: ‘‘I urge councillor Harty and his Labor colleagues to work with the Liberal councillors to continue to deliver for our community.’’
He said he had a long-standing passion for politics and the local area, inspired by a visit to his primary school by a federal MP as a child and former federal opposition leader and then Prime Minister John Howard, who he said stood up for views and reforms that were well ahead of his time.
Cr Jefferies said that six key priorities would form the focus of his term as mayor: light rail, local infrastructure, The Hills visitor economy, knock down rebuilds, commuter car parking and council amalgamations.
“These six key areas of focus will help The Sydney Hills maintain its position as one of the best local government areas in this state, where people want to live, where people want to do business and where people want to visit,” Cr Jefferies said.
Said Cr Harty: ‘‘The fact people out in the community knew about this weeks ago, that Cr Jefferies would be installed as mayor, is a farce.
‘‘The musical chairs surrounding who is mayor is nothing more than what it is — the divying up of the political spoils — therefore Labor councillors could not be part of the political arrangements that have led to Cr Jefferies being made mayor.’’
About a dozen residents turned out to see how the evening panned out.