Chris Richards in shock retirement

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chris richards 1CHRISTINE Richards pulled out of the Frankston Council election last Wednesday, surprising even her closest supporters.

Her decision, technically a “retirement” according to the Victorian Electoral Commission, means the council will have at least two new faces after the 27 October election with Kris Bolam not nominating in North-West Ward and heading off into the sunset to work as a Protective Services Officer on train stations.

Cr Richards was elected to South-West Ward in 2008 and was elected mayor by her colleagues a year later.

On Wednesday, Cr Richards told VEC returning officer Ian Smyth of her decision. She had to get an order from Frankston Magistrates’ Court, a process designed to discourage candidates from withdrawing or retiring for frivolous reasons.

Mr Smyth put in train the destruction of ballot papers and reprinting of new ones.

It was too late for South-West Ward candidates to resubmit their preferences so everyone below Cr Richards was moved up one position.

On Wednesday afternoon last week, Cr Richards told The Times it had been a difficult decision.

“For some months I have been having difficulties balancing commitments to work, council, family and friends,” she said.

“I had breast cancer in 2000 and went through six months of therapy. The pace I’ve been keeping is unsustainable and I’m concerned that maintaining an unrelenting work schedule will affect my health.”

Cr Richards said she had thought about not renominating prior to the 25 September deadline, but decided to go ahead.

She had organised 30 people to dis­tribute election pamphlets to 33,000 voters in 20,000 homes in South Ward last weekend.

In an email to the 30, she wrote: “It won’t now be necessary to hand out pamphlets this coming weekend. Thanks for offering to do so, though. It was – and is – greatly appreciated. Working shoulder to shoulder with so many people like you over the last four years, I now know how big Frankston’s heart is. It’s engendered a feeling of pride and belonging in me – a better understanding of who I am and where I come from – that was not so present in my life before I became a councillor. It’s a gift no money can buy. I’ll still be working on Frankston issues – just not so many at any one time.”

Cr Richards, the daughter of Alan Richards of Bounty Shop fame, a prominent member of the community for many years, said the reaction to her retirement had been overwhelming.

“I’ve had so many calls checking on my health. I’ve had to reassure people there is no recurrence of cancer,” she said.

“I woke up this morning after making the decision last night, saw it was a bright and sunny day, and realised I’d be able to enjoy the summer this year.”

Over three decades, Cr Richards has had three careers – in law, media and local government

She is on the Victorian Local Governance Association board and will relinquish her position.

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