HUNTER Labor stalwart and long-serving Cessnock mayor John Clarence, OAM, has died after a long illness, aged 73.
Mr Clarence died on Tuesday morning, prompting tributes from friends and colleagues in politics and local government.
He had served on Cessnock City Council for 21 years, having been elected on the ALP ticket in 1987. He first became mayor in 1999 and was re-elected in 2004.
Former council colleague and ALP member for Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon said Mr Clarence had been a hard-working mayor who did good things for Cessnock.
Mr Clarence stepped down as mayor in 2008, shortly after being awarded the Order of Australia Medal for his local government service. He said at that time that he regarded the award as one of the high points of his career.
Current mayor Bob Pynsent said he had regarded Mr Clarence as a mentor during his own four years as deputy mayor, learning much from him about local government.
‘‘John was an exceptional mayor of this city and worked tirelessly for our community,’’ Cr Pynsent said.
‘‘Two of his most notable achievements were the introduction of the Mayoral Academic Scholarships and the Mayoral Academic Challenge, both of which continue today, more than eight years later.’’
ALP and council colleague Jeff Maybury said Mr Clarence had a great flair for organisation that was seen in the success of public events, particularly Cessnock’s Australia Day celebrations.
Mr Clarence is survived by his wife, Lynette, and daughter Danielle.