By Mitchell Clarke
Almost 30 candidates will fight for just five spots to represent the booming Pakenham and Officer communities in the upcoming Cardinia Shire Council election.
The new single wards – Central, Henty, Officer, Toomuc and Pakenham Hills – will allow just one councillor to be elected to represent their respective ratepayers.
A whopping 10 hopefuls have nominated to run for Officer Ward, while the Henty Ward has seven candidates while Toomuc has six, Central, four and Pakenham Hills, just two.
Prior to this election, Central Ward covered all of Pakenham and was made up of four councillors – Collin Ross, Carol Ryan, Michael Schilling and Jodie Owen.
Mr Ross, Ms Ryan and Mr Schilling will all re-contest their spot in different wards, while Ms Owen has decided to step away from her council role.
Ms Owen, a former mayor, issued a plea to those vying for a spot. She urged all candidates to run for the right reasons.
“I hope that those that come in behind me do so for our community – don’t do it to get on State or Federal,” she said.
“Love your community and get elected because that’s whats important, and that’s what’s kept me going.”
Collin Ross will hope to be elected to the new Central Ward while Carol Ryan and Michael Schilling have nominated to represent the Henty Ward and Toomuc Ward, respectively.
But each councillor faces tough competition, with well known community faces hoping to freshen up the council.
Pakenham Football Club president Travis Hamilton will run in Schilling’s area, while fabled former councillor Kate Lempriere is hopeful to claim Ryan’s ward in a bid to get back on council.
Collin Ross will need to beat newcomers Brijal Parikh and Naomi Horsley, who have both led active social media campaigns.
A brand new councillor will take over Officer, after no existing councillors nominated to run in the new ward.
Those in contention include Larissa Damouni, who is a notable community volunteer, and Shoheli Sunjida, who will run as part of the controversial ‘Clean Up Cardinia’ campaign.
The Clean Up Cardinia campaign, headed by Liberal member Andrew McNabb, has come under fire for being perceived to run as a block in a bid to monopolise the council.
McNabb will come up against council favourite Brett Owen to take over the Beaconhills Ward.
A further 11 candidates will go head to head for a spot on the Shire’s three remaining wards – Beaconhills, Westernport and Bunyip – as former mayor Jeff Springfield has already claimed Ranges Ward by virtue of an uncontested election.