This story originally appeared in the Northern Daily Leader
Just 12 months into her first term in local government and Central Ward councillor Sarah Smith is not ruling out a stint at the top job in the future and potentially becoming Port Stephens’ first female mayor.
Hailing from Mudgee, Sarah spent her formative years in the region initially starting school in Dunedoo before attending Mudgee Public School and then Mudgee High School.
She spent her senior years in Sydney but returned to Mudgee for a time working behind the bar at the Lawson Park Hotel to support herself while studying at college.
Speaking to the Mudgee Guardian, Sarah says she doesn’t get home as often as she might like but her family is all here and she still has a soft spot for the region.
The newly elected deputy mayor is fiercely independent and a proud female representative, saying it’s important to encourage women to get involved in the political sphere.
“If you had asked me five years ago if I would be on council I’m not sure what I would have said,” Cr Smith admitted.
“As for mayoral aspirations, never say never. There have been some great people who have influenced me over the years, including my parents and grandparents plus the many people I have worked with in the hospitality industry.
“You start at the bottom, work hard, lead by example and you can be both successful and happy.”
Cr Smith, an Anna Bay business owner and mother of one, says her work and life experiences have taught her the importance of teamwork and unity in the decision making process.
She recalls the sage advice given to her at the September 2017 election from the council’s longest serving councillor John Nell: ‘We [councillors] can disagree during debate but we have to agree on the decisions we make’.
Last Tuesday night Cr Smith was thrown into the deep end within minutes of winning a closely contested vote for the deputy mayor’s position, beating the incumbent deputy Chris Doohan 7-5 after earlier seeing off a third contender Cr Nell.
“It was a bit of a surprise and I only decided to throw my hat into the ring about three weeks ago after talking to Central Ward colleague, Steve Tucker,” Cr Smith said.
“When I first stood for election I pledged to make a real difference for our community. It’s been a whirlwind year and I’m proud to be a part of this council.”
Humble in defeat, Cr Doohan said it had been an honour to deputise for two mayors, Bruce MacKenzie and Ryan Palmer, over the past three years.
“This role has given me the opportunity to further develop personally and professionally and I have been able to advocate strongly for my community,” Cr Doohan said.