Willson wins: Landslide win in supplementary council election

BORN and bred local, David Willson has been elected to the Clare and Gilbert Valleys Council in a supplementary election, receiving 40.85 per cent of first preference, or 1005 votes.

After the distribution of preferences, Mr Willson obtained 1211 votes and was provisionally elected.

Four candidates nominated for the position, with Bill Vandepeer receiving 28.17pc of first preference votes (693 votes), Susan Cunningham 18.25pc (449 votes), and Owen Perry 12.72pc (313 votes).

Mr Willson said he was looking forward to taking on the new role and thanked the other candidates for putting their hand up.

“It was good to see four candidates put themselves forward, I think it shows people in our area do have an interest in what’s happening and it was good that voters had a selection of candidates to choose from,” he said.

Mr Willson, a tour operator born and bred in the Clare Valley, said he had much to learn about the process of local government, but was ready for the challenge.

“I’m not a fan of going in to win, but I am a fan of finding a win-win situation in everything,” he said.

“I feel excited with anticipation now that I know the votes are in and counted and it was a good result.

“I’m really looking forward to getting in and learning the process, there’s a few things I’d like to bring to council attention, but first I need to learn properly how it all works.”

Working in the tourism industry, but having also worked in agriculture and having an interest in a cross range of activities in the local region, Mr Willson said he believed there was much to be achieved in progressing the region’s tourism focus.

“While tourism is a passion of mine, I’m not limited to a single issue,” he said.

“We have Tarlee as the gateway into the Clare Valley, and from there, Riverton, Saddleworth and up to Clare, are all places of interest and I think all of these towns can benefit from increased visitation and we need to promote and sell ourselves for the betterment of the region.

“In many ways, COVID-19 has been a blessing in disguise and anyone with a B&B, hotel, restaurant – they’re all now doing exceptionally well.

“The Mid North and Clare and Gilbert Valleys Council area has benefited a lot from the influx of intrastate travellers.

“We’ve got people coming in now who haven’t been here for years and they’re rediscovering the area, it’s been a hidden gem and it’s opened up to South Australia and Australia.

“I’d like to see more done for tourism here – it’s a major employer and there are a lot of opportunities for people to get into hospitality, tourism, agriculture and viticulture – the flow-on effect is great for the entire community, every business benefits in some way.”

A total of 2513 votes were received from the 6714 residents enrolled to vote, representing 37.43pc voter participation in the supplementary council election.

There were 2460 formal votes, with seven informal votes.