By Casey Neill
Greater Dandenong’s new mayor brings 20 years on council and three previous mayoral terms to the role.
Councillor Youhorn Chea was elected unopposed to the position at the Thursday 16 November special council meeting.
“Greater Dandenong is one of Australia’s most culturally diverse communities,” he said.
“I believe it is one of the most vibrant in our country.
“I’m very proud to be representing the community and I promise to always do my best for the people that call Greater Dandenong home.”
Cr Roz Blades nominated Cr Chea, with Cr Heang Tak seconding the motion.
“You work tirelessly for the Cambodian community, who reverently refer to you as ‘Uncle’,” Cr Blades said.
Cr Chea, who came to Australia in 1982 as a Cambodian refugee, said he would use his years of experience and work hard to “achieve good outcomes for our vulnerable community”.
“There is always a lot happening in our city but over the next 12 months I am particularly excited about the Springvale community precinct project,” he said.
Outgoing mayor Jim Memeti said his third term as mayor had been a great privilege and he’d enjoyed every minute.
He migrated to Australia as a child and has lived in Greater Dandenong for most of his life.
“I will always be indebted to it for all the opportunities it has offered me and my family,” Cr Memeti said.
He said he’d watched many major projects take shape over the past 12 months.
“Top of the list is the transformation of Springvale,” he said.
Cr Memeti unveiled the refurbished Springvale City Hall in October, as well as Keysborough’s new Tatterson Park pavilion, the Allan Street bridge in Dandenong and the Mayor’s Youth Employment Taskforce action plan.
“I hope I made the residents proud and they feel that I have served them well,” he said.
Choking back tears, Cr Maria Sampey said Cr Memeti had always been a leader to her.
“You’ve really helped me to be assertive,” she said.
“You’ve really made me get my mojo back so I can really achieve.”
Crs Tim Dark and Zaynoun Melhem reflected on their first 12 months in the role, following their election in October last year as the only two new faces among 11.
“I’ve known Youhorn since I was seven years old,” Cr Melhem said.
“For 20 years he’s been a great leader for the community.”
Cr Matthew Kirwan said it was an exciting time to have a mayor from Lightwood Ward, which has Springvale at its core.
“I actually think it’s the ‘Age of Springvale’,” he said.
“It’s a booming suburb.”
Fellow Lightwood Ward representative Cr Sean O’Reilly said Cr Chea was “one of the most resilient people I know”.
Cr Memeti said Cr Chea was “probably the most sincere and decent person I’ve met on council”.
By Casey Neill