Testing first innings for shire’s new ceo

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Mornington municipal office. A full agenda. Notably, the first council meeting attended by the shire’s new chief executive officer, Mr Carl Cowie.

By David Harrison

IT WAS new shire CEO Carl Cowie’s first public appearance at a council meeting and, so far as Council Watch knows, his first peninsula public outing, full stop. Mr Cowie is the shire’s first new chief executive officer this millennium and the first new CEO for all councillors bar Cr David Gibb, who has sat in the chamber since at least 1999.

Mr Cowie arrived in the chamber without fanfare. He sat quietly at the top table, at mayor Bev Colomb’s right hand, watching, listening. CW had heard he is quiet and polite, with a dry Scottish sense of humour. Apparently he likes a wee dram. Knockdhu? Pittyvaich?

The meeting began with the usual procedural matters and was dealing with public questions when, about 20 minutes into the meeting, Cr Colomb suddenly interrupted the flow.

“There’s something I’ve been amiss with,” she said. “I haven’t had the opportunity yet to introduce our new CEO, Mr Carl Cowie, who is joining us for our first council meeting. So, welcome Carl.”

Applause from councillors and staff, and from the gallery. A smile and a nod from Mr Cowie. Silence. Was he going to make a short response? We waited.

Cr Tim Rodgers finally broke the silence. “That’s the last round of applause you’ll hear,” he said, drawing a grin from the CEO and laughter from the room.

Then it was on with the show. CW can inform readers that the councillors’ desks and the top table are now supplied with bowls of individually wrapped mints. They are very popular, particularly among those who should know better. CEO Cowie has his own bowl, from which he was observed taking what could have been his first mint at 8.43pm.

Question time dealt with the blow-in Rye traders and the shire’s lack of powers to deal with them (‘Traders angry at truck pop ups’, The News 9/12/14).

Send in the health inspectors, thought CW: they’re pretty good at spotting a suspect speck on a knife or cutting board. Officers will investigate, the meeting was told.

A couple of items generated some discussion. First, a rather tedious and repetitive discussion about a parcel of land that had been carved off the state park and sold to a property owner in Arthurs Seat Rd. The neighbour had complained about spray drift.

Cr Gibb, a green wedge beef fattener, explained that such bucolic occurrences as spray drift must be endured if one lives in green wedge land, along with agricultural noises and odours, not all necessarily emitted by stock. Not once, but a number of times did he tell the meeting this. On the other side of the chamber an explanation about single or double-storey shops was repeated ad tedium. People fidgeted.

With tempers shortening and the meeting being close to the end of the year, CW had to sympathise with Cr Andrew Dixon, chided by the chair for an extravagant remark, when an action by Cr Rodgers was described as “nonsensical”. We’re in polite debate, Cr Colomb reminded Cr Dixon, who of late has become a repeat offender.

Which may have been the impetus for Cr Dixon to leave the meeting at 9.40pm, a fact noted in the minutes, twice. All business relating to his Briars ward had finished by then and he avoided a prolonged and quietly anaesthetising debate on a road closure. During it a council stalwart in the gallery rose quietly and bade CW good night.

(When contacted later in the week Cr Dixon said he had left in protest at the use of the mayor’s casting vote to prevent shop-top housing in Mountain View Rd, Mt Eliza.)

Meanwhile, the new CEO was lowering his mint supply and appearing to look interested. His changing facial expressions did cover “interested” now and then. CW wondered what thoughts were whirling around the Cowie cranium.

Finally, mercifully, the chair announced that the in-camera part of the meeting had been reached, requiring that we all exit the chamber. No one hung around. It was the last but one meeting for the year, the last being an audit committee meeting on 17 December. Then a break until 27 January, when it all begins again.

Happy Hogmanay, Mr Cowie, and a bonny 2015!

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