Long-Tan up for the battle

Newly elected mayor Angela Long and deputy mayor Sophie Tan.

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

In a moment of history, Angela Long and Sophie Tan have been elected as Greater Dandenong Council’s first mayor-deputy mayor team.

The Long-Tan team was elected unopposed by colleagues to lead a fresh-faced council at a public meeting on Thursday 19 November.

It belied a five-all vote deadlock between Cr Long and four-time mayor Jim Memeti for the leadership three nights earlier.

The contest was decided behind-the-scenes by drawing a ball out of a hat.

Newly elected Dandenong North Ward councillor Bob Milkovic enigmatically abstained from both the mayoral and deputy mayoral votes.

“It was my legal right,” he said – dismissing any pressure to cast a deciding mayoral vote.

“I don’t respond to pressure but do what I think is right.”

Cr Long, who last served as mayor in 2000 and 2012, said the result was “a bit of a shock”.

She will lead a fresh-faced council – with five out of 11 councillors being first timers.

In her acceptance speech, Cr Long made a focus on supporting and regenerating the community through the “new Covid-19 normal”.

At the same time, the council’s bottom line has taken a $12 million hit from the pandemic so far – such as from waiving rents, rates, outdoor dining permits and parking fees or spending on emergency relief and grants.

“It’s a big challenge. We’ve never been through something like this before,” Cr Long said.

“We can’t put our heads in the sand.

“If we work together with local businesses and the local community, we’ll get through this OK.”

Cr Long named projects such as the Dandenong Community Hub, the Dandenong Gallery of Art and the redeveloped Dandenong Oasis – to be known as the Dandenong Aquatic and Wellbeing Centre – as priorities.

She said she’d work with Greater Dandenong’s indigenous community and the municipality’s cultural diverse communities.

She thanked Cr Memeti as the previous mayor for making a “positive contribution to the community” with “enthusiasm and dedication”.

A “very excited” Cr Tan said she took the newly created deputy mayoral role seriously.

“I look forward to working closely with Cr Long and supporting her for the next 12 months.”

At the October elections, the council was rejuvenated with five new councillors out of 11

The debutants are Cr Milkovic, Rhonda Garad (Keysborough South), Lana Formoso (Noble Park North), Richard Lim (Springvale Central) and Eden Foster (Yarraman).

They join returned councillors Long, Tan, Memeti, Tim Dark, Sean O’Reilly and Loi Truong.

During the meeting, councillors commented that the all-female leadership team reflects the council’s more even gender balance.

Five women councillors were elected in October, up from three.