Cr Paula Cristoffanini claimed the Shire presidency and re-elected Cowaramup-based member Julia Meldrum was named her deputy on Wednesday in a move critics say represents the return of a “green council”. Cr Cristoffanini was elected 4-3 over former Shire president Ian Earl during a special council meeting, and Cr Meldrum reclaimed the title she held during the first half of her previous term on council. The 4-3 split on the vote could become a regular fixture of meetings, with the council’s conservative bloc of Crs Earl, Brian Daniel and Kylie Kennaugh now in the minority. Cr Daniel lost a bid for the deputy’s role 4-3. Cr Cristoffanini brings high-level public sector experience to the role, with a CV which includes work as the director of the Office of Multicultural Interest of WA. She told the Times she viewed her election “as symbolic of our shire’s celebration of diversity”. “We have been living in very unusual times and we are not out the other side yet,” Cr Cristoffanini said. “We need to be innovative and kind to ensure our community emerges better at the other side. “There are pressures on our community that are difficult for a council to address, but we can and should do our best to provide support. “We want to support the various areas of our economy, tourism, business and agriculture. “We want our community to thrive.” When elected in 2019, artist Cr Cristoffanini was fresh off the work she and partner Ian Williams undertook planning for a renewable energy project in Scott River under the Augusta-Margaret River Clean Community Energy banner. At the time, Cr Cristoffanini said she wanted to safeguard the region’s character, and moves towards place-based planning were now taking place. The conservative bloc was clearly frustrated to see the election go against them after candidate Carl Wheeler’s past conviction for defrauding the Australian Taxation Office hamstrung his bid, pipping anti-mandatory vaccination candidate Helen Allan, who attracted the smallest number of votes. On social media, Mr Wheeler said residents would have to remain vocal to ensure good community outcomes on issues such as a review of dog exercise areas. “You voted a green council in, what do you expect?” he wrote. Restaurateur and volunteer firefighter Richard Moroney, who narrowly lost to Cr David Binks for the coveted fourth spot, also said voters must continue to hold councillors to account for pledges made during the election. In a social media post, Mr Moroney said solving the region’s housing crisis, reducing rates, stopping the Gnarabup resort development, and reintroducing the wards system were all promised by newly elected members — although candidates stopped short of pledging those reforms. Cr Meldrum said she would continue with her existing goals as deputy. “I will continue to ensure our natural environment is protected and enhanced, ensure good governance and financial due diligence, fairness of expenditure throughout the shire, and look at ‘place-making’ of all our unique settlements ... to ensure their character is respected and needs are understood,” she said. Crs Cristoffanini and Meldrum are not members of any political party.