Lord mayor John Tate bows out

AN ERA has ended.

John Tate will bow out of public life after 13 years as Newcastle lord mayor and more than three decades as a councillor.

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Nominations for next month’s election closed at noon yesterday, as Cr Tate fronted the media to announce he would spend the next month cleaning out his City Hall office rather than campaigning.

Cr Tate, who narrowly missed election to State Parliament in 2007, said he was leaving while he loved local government.

‘‘It’s where my heart is, but it’s not the sort of thing [where] you should think you’ll be there forever,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s timely that the city gets a new council.’’

Seven candidates will try to take Cr Tate’s place in one of the most hotly contested polls since he narrowly beat Labor’s Greg Heys in 1999.

Just a month after he was elected, the city’s lifeblood, the BHP Steelworks at Mayfield closed its doors.

‘‘In ’99 the place was down at heel and that’s why I decided I’d run,’’ Cr Tate said.

When asked to name his achievements and proudest moments, Cr Tate first lists suburban projects such as building park grandstands. Others include the re-opening of Fort Scratchley, funding for the art gallery redevelopment and building the new Newcastle Museum.

The decision to stand down was made because he did not want to ‘‘put things on hold that I had [already] put on hold. This year has been difficult, not just because of the difficulties around the table,’’ he said.

He said the office of lord mayor was ‘‘a resource for the city and a catalyst for the progress of the city’’.

Tributes poured in after the announcement yesterday.

Newcastle MP Tim Owen said Cr Tate led the city with pride and professionalism.

‘‘I have been impressed by his commitment to the people of Newcastle, his community mindedness and determination,’’ Mr Owen said.

Several councillors, including those who called for Cr Tate to stand down after general manager Lindy Hyam’s resignation in November 2010, also spoke warmly about him yesterday.

Cr Tate has put together and endorsed the Community 1 Independents ticket, which will stand Bryan Havenhand for lord mayor. Cr Tate said he would not become a critic of the next council.

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