Kiama councillor defeated after 28 years in office

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Joyce Wheatley, who was defeated in the Kiama council elections, at Kendalls Beach in Kiama. Picture: SYLVIA LIBERJoyce Wheatley is surprisingly nonchalant about her weekend election defeat after 28 years on Kiama council.”That’s life. People have made their decision, who am I to argue?” Mrs Wheatley said yesterday.The election result halts a notable career for the 71-year-old, who spent eight years as Kiama’s mayor and 26 years on the executive of the NSW Local Government Women’s Association.The retired high school teacher grew up in Camperdown before relocating to Kiama with her husband Frank and three children 43 years ago.The couple operated a community group before both were encouraged to stand for Kiama council in 1980.Ill-health forced Mr Wheatley to withdraw from the race. He lived just long enough to see his wife elected.Mrs Wheatley’s elevation to mayor in 1991 came at a turbulent time in the council’s history. However, her conciliatory approach proved to have a calming effect during volatile debates.Mrs Wheatley, who was regarded as a role model for female councillors, was presented with an inaugural award for women in local government last year.”The percentage (of women) in local government is about 27 per cent and needs to be much higher,” she said. “Why waste 50 per cent of the intelligence in the community?”Mrs Wheatley has been a member of the ALP for 39 years but holds no grudge against the party for not supporting her campaign on the weekend, resulting in both she and Kiama ALP president Neil Reilly running as independents.”The ALP doesn’t endorse candidates outside the metropolitan area … I guess they need to make sure their resources are being used as best as possible,” she said.Mrs Wheatley said she was proud of how Kiama Municipality had developed over the years.”The fact we have been able to grow, control that growth and share with newcomers what we have,” she said.The grandmother of two now plans to divide her time between her work as a marriage celebrant, teaching at Kiama Community College and furthering her role within St John Ambulance.”Will I come back in four years? Who knows, but I’ve got lots of things planned for now which will still keep me very busy.”

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