DEVELOPER and businessman Jeff McCloy says fixing Hunter Street is top of his list of priorities, after announcing a shock campaign for the job of Newcastle’s lord mayor.
Incumbent John Tate also hinted at a run yesterday, confirming rumours that he was assembling a city-wide ticket.
A Melbourne Cup field for the lord mayoral election – at least eight candidates have declared their intentions or are believed to be running – will make the council election one of the most fascinating in years.
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Mr McCloy’s announcement, made while holidaying in Singapore, took councillors and other political figures by surprise yesterday.
Mr McCloy said he was motivated to stand after a recent visit to Tamworth, where he was impressed by the state of the city centre.
‘‘It looked great and all the shops were full,’’ Mr McCloy said.
‘‘I felt that it can’t be that hard.’’
‘‘The physical face of Hunter Street, where people on a daily basis can see change, I think that’s a good place to start.’’
Mr McCloy lives at Belmont, but is eligible to run for Newcastle City Council because he owns property in the city and pays rates.
He is also independently wealthy, which gives him a significant advantage after recent changes to political donation laws banned contributions by corporations and other entities. The vote has been dubbed the ‘‘paupers’ poll’’ and most candidates are expected to finance their own campaigns.
A source said yesterday that Mr McCloy had a significant campaign war chest to spend on advertising in the coming weeks.
Mr McCloy said that, if elected, he would donate the lord mayor’s allowance to charity and would properly manage any conflicts with his property interests.
He is expected to speak with other candidates and business leaders when he returns from overseas and will ask them to back his campaign.
Mr McCloy said more like-minded people ‘‘who could get things done’’ were required on the council. ‘‘If the people want that change, I believe I can bring that change,’’ he said.
Cr Tate has been coy for months about a possible run for a fourth term as lord mayor.
He said yesterday he was assembling a ticket but would not confirm if he would lead the group to the election.
Cr Shayne Connell confirmed yesterday that he would not recontest his seat due to work and family commitments.
Cr Connell, the youngest of the current councillors, was considered a future lord mayor in some quarters.
‘‘Since the beginning of this term my wife and I have welcomed our first baby daughter and I have moved into the regional manager role at Cancer Council NSW,’’ he said.