STRATFORD resident and a newcomer to council Carmel Ripper has been catapulted into Keith Mills’ vacant Northern Ward seat following a countback of votes from last year’s election.
The surprise result of the Wellington Shire countback on Wednesday resulted in councillor-elect Ripper easily taking the seat from fellow candidate Peter Cleary, who was widely expected to win.
To fill the extraordinary vacancy after Cr Mills’ unexpected resignation last month, 4944 ballot papers had to be distributed, with Ms Ripper winning with an absolute majority of 1325.
The count was conducted by the Electoral Commission using special software to count only ballot papers that originally elected the retiring candidate.
A three-time councillor first elected in 2005, Mr Cleary was clearly disappointed, but humble in defeat, embracing his close friend Ms Ripper as he congratulated her on the result.
“It’s a good result, she’ll work hard, I’ve known her a long time,” he said.
Brought up in a farming family near Echuca, Ms Ripper came to Sale in 1981 and spent 11 years at RAAF Base, East Sale.
She then moved to Heyfield, and spent a short time in South Australia before settling in Stratford, where she is heavily involved in the local community.
She said her “platform” was equality and “fairness” for all.
“It’s been one ‘yes’ today, and now another ‘yes’,” she said, in reference to the same-sex marriage survey’s overwhelming ‘yes’ result.
“But I’m a ninth link in the chain, and we will all work together to achieve results that are good for communities.”
After the count, Wellington Shire Council mayor Carolyn Crossley welcomed Ms Ripper, who will undertake inductions and briefings next week, to bring her up to speed on current issues.
“We congratulate Carmel and welcome her to the Wellington Shire Council,” Cr Crossley said.
“We pride ourselves on working collaboratively as a team of councillors, and look forward to Carmel joining us for the remaining three years of the council term.”
Councillor-elect Ripper will be sworn in before Tuesday’s council meeting.