Karen Williams, is nearing the end of her first term as Mayor of Redland City Council. It is reasonable to ask her at this time a fair assessment of her first term and the council she has headed.
Q: Has it been a tough four years?
A:I certainly did not enter politics to have an easy time and an easy job. I knew there would be tough times, and there have been. I knew there would be good times, and there have been. I have never forgotten what an honour it is to have been elected by the people of the Redlands as their civic leader and I have tried hard to deliver for them. I am a person who tries to turn challenges into opportunities and I have been fortunate in that there are many people at Council and outside who share that goal who I have worked closely with to deliver for the people. I have never been scared of hard work. This is a 24:7 job and I am 200% committed to serving the people of our great city should they re-elect me on March 19..
Q: What type of council do you believe you headed?
A:I believe we now have a contemporary, forward-thinking Council with a much more positive attitude born out of cultural change. I know we are much more efficient, effective and responsive to the needs of the people. We have a can-do rather than a can’t do Council with a city-wide focus. In saying that, we have much more work to do. The job is far from complete. A good Council today has to be flexible to respond to the changing needs of our community. I believe we have built such a Council over the past four years.
Q: What was the position of council, in your mind, at the start of your term?
A: When I became Mayor I inherited a Council that was difficult for people to work with, had much higher debt, a much less solid financial position that we have today, had been responsible for a full term of high rates hikes. We needed cultural change and that had to happen from the top down.
Q: What were your objectives for your first term?
A: During my campaign for the Mayoralty I pledged to cut waste, reduce red and green tape, reduce rate rises and keep them within CPI, help ease cost of living pressures on Redlanders, better manage population growth, declare the city open for business and make the Council more efficient, effective, and responsive to the people. I have delivered on all fronts. We have made savings of millions of dollars and have reinvested these in providing services and infrastructure rather than directly impacting residents through higher rate rises. As I said earlier, the job is not complete; there are challenges that I am determined to face head-on given the opportunity and to turn into opportunities that will assist in making the Redlands an even better place to live, work and to invest.
. Q: Are you happy with where the council is now placed?
A: I am happy that we are on the verge of delivering enormously exciting projects for Toondah Harbour and Weinam Creek; I am happy that we now have the lowest household debt of any Council in SEQ and a financial position that is the envy of other councils; I am proud that for four straight years we have been the leader in containing rates hikes after years of double digit rates hikes; I am happy that we have managed the first operating surplus for around 15 years, are heading for our third straight surplus and projected surpluses for the next decade; and proud that one of my first actions as Mayor was to deliver on my promise to remove domestic tip fees. Along the way we have unveiled Economic Development and Tourism strategies that will provide direction for years to come and changed the council culture. I believe we now have a proud workforce committed to serving the people of the Redlands.
Q: Has it been a harmonious council?
A: When you have 11 very different people with varying views on different issues you will always have some conflict. Redland City is no different. The job of councillors is to always make decisions in the best interests of the whole of their city and to honestly and diligently serve the people. There have been some challenges during this term and we might have been able to deliver more had we not had periods of conflict.
Q: You are standing for re-election as Mayor, if successful, where would you like to get the next Redland City Council to in terms of future goals?
A: My goal should I be re-elected is to further strengthen our economy and attract new businesses that are compatible to the Redlands. I would also like to deliver more projects that are of benefit to our city and our young people – like tertiary education and employment opportunities, and affordable housing. These components are critical to retaining our younger Redlanders rather than see them be our greatest export. A strong economy is crucial for continuing responsible growth and jobs are necessary if our young people are not to remain our biggest export. I would also like to see the start of major projects such as Toondah Harbour and Weinam Creek and the Surf Life Saving Queensland Centre of Excellence and State headquarters come to the Redlands. A priority would be to continue the congestion-busting work already started and to continue to lobby the State Government to accept its responsibility and invest in State roads and other infrastructure across the Redlands. Unlike some others, I will never promise anything that is not achievable; I will promise to continue to work in the best interests of our city and its people, to be honest, ethical, dedicated and accessible.
Q: And what of the islands that council is responsible for, what are your objectives here?
A: There has been a renewed focus on our wonderful islands during my term as Mayor. I think the results are there for all to see – the long-awaited sewering of Dunwich, the $14 million upgrade of Point Lookout wastewater treatment plant underway, new jetties for Coochiemudlo Island and Victoria Point, plans for replacement of other island jetties, the island green seal roads program that has seen us fast-track works across the SMBI, delivering the Russell Island Sports and Resilience Centre – to name a few. My goal if re-elected is to work with the chambers of commerce to build our island economies by highlighting opportunities such as tourism and food production and create employment for islanders. I also would continue to work closely with the State Government to ensure the transition from sand mining on North Stradbroke Island is as seamless as possible and to address some of the public transport issues remaining for the islands.