The end of the Tate era

NEWCASTLE lord mayor John Tate has broken his silence and confirmed what many had suspected, that he will not seek another term in office.

It’s an announcement that ends an era and opens the way for an intriguing tussle between a widely varied field of contenders hoping to take his place.

Cr Tate entered local government more than 30 years ago and steadily built a solid community and business following based on his reputation for consultation and consensus.

For a long time it was assumed that Cr Tate would do what some other civic leaders have done and make the step across to state or federal office. Indeed, that was his unmistakeable ambition, although he always professed a special fondness for local politics.

In 2006, at the peak of his profile, the lord mayor had Labor power-brokers worried that he might run as an independent for the state seat of Newcastle and beat the party’s incumbent, Bryce Gaudry. But recruitment talks between Cr Tate and the ALP were derailed by Labor’s surprise announcement that it had chosen former newsreader Jodi McKay, and the scene was set for a cliff-hanger 2007 vote that put an end to John Tate’s political ascent.

In a fierce three-way fight between the ALP’s McKay and independents Tate and Gaudry, Labor scraped in by just hundreds of votes, leaving Cr Tate to ponder what might have been.

In his next tilt at the state seat, his vote tumbled and he polled fourth, behind the Greens. The assumption that Newcastle would always choose an independent in preference to an avowed conservative was proven wrong, to the delight of Liberal winner Tim Owen.

The city’s longest-serving lord mayor, Cr Tate and his wife and lady mayoress Cathy deserve much credit for the energy they have put into serving their community.

What comes next, is the big question for Newcastle. Labor’s Nuatali Nelmes is considered most likely to win the lord mayoral chair, at least partly because of the fragmented conservative ticket on which high-profile contenders Aaron Buman and Jeff McCloy figure prominently.

Whoever wins will inherit a difficult role at a difficult time. Newcastle City Council’s morale is languishing, important professional relationships are fraught and ratepayers are cynical about the organisation’s capacity for leadership or change.

The new lord mayor will need plenty of firmness, tenacity and finesse to get the city and its council back on course.

Sailing for gold

GOSFORD sailor Tom Slingsby nearly quit his sport after failing badly at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, but proved all the old saws about perseverance when he clinched Australia’s first individual gold medal in the London games this week.

And now the Hunter’s boat has come in, with Wangi Wangi sailors Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen claiming their own golden games rewards in the 49-er class.

In an Olympiad so far notoriously short of medals for Australian competitors, these gleams of success shine all the more brightly for their rarity.

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