Augusta-Margaret River Shire president Julia Meldrum quashes talk of dissent

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Paula Cristoffanini, Kylie Kennaugh, Julia Meldrum, Nicki Jones and Greg Boland.
Camera IconPaula Cristoffanini, Kylie Kennaugh, Julia Meldrum, Nicki Jones and Greg Boland. Credit: Warren Hately/Augusta-Margaret R/RegionalHUB

Shire president Julia Meldrum has apologised to her colleagues for her rough first few weeks in the top job.

The apology was made at Wednesday night’s Shire of Augusta-Margaret River council meeting as members grappled with the void left by the shock resignation of chief executive Stephanie Addison-Brown.

“It’s been a very busy few weeks since the new council formed and in this time in my role, as the first community-elected shire president, I wish to acknowledge that I have made some judgements that were not beneficial for our collective of council that I regret making,” she said.

“Councillors, I am unreservedly apologetic for this.

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“This induction to the role has been a significant learning experience.”

The president pledged “open, transparent, respectful and collaborative” leadership moving forward.

While details behind the apology were slim, the Times was inundated with calls this week from residents concerned about an emergency meeting held between elected members last Wednesday, November 15.

The meeting occurred the same day the shire released the shock news of Ms Addison-Brown’s resignation.

The resignation came despite the chief securing a five-year contract extension in June.

The Times asked the shire president if she had the full support of elected members amid reports several councillors voiced unhappiness with her leadership during that November 15 forum.

However, Cr Meldrum scotched talk of dissent within the council’s ranks — and refuted claims made by residents that some councillors had discussed dissolving the newly-elected council.

“There is no consideration of dissolving council,” Cr Meldrum said.

“Council is a collective decision-making body and we are united with a clear commitment and shared vision for our community.”

The Times contacted individual members for their perspective and none responded to inquiries.

Last month, the Times reported concerns aired by Crs Ian Earl and Kylie Kennaugh about outside donations to the shire president’s campaign as well as fundraising undertaken by the Local Government Sustainability Network for new members Greg Boland and Nicki Jones.

While the network’s membership included people from Preserve Gnarabup and the Margaret River Regional Environment Centre, spokesperson and ex-shire president Pam Townshend said the lobby group was not party political.

The shire president declared two donations totalling $4250 from family members in Manjimup.

A quiz night co-ordinated by the LGSN saw $2071 donated to campaign costs for Crs Jones and Boland.

Ms Addison-Brown has taken a manager position with the City of Busselton and finishes up in Margaret River on February 9.

Ms Addison-Brown told the Times her decision to resign was motivated by work choices.

“My resignation was due to me making the decision to accept another job,” she said.

“My comments about this are in the public domain.”

The Times understands Ms Addison-Brown was already living in Busselton.

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