Cr Newton, Cr Smith to retire but they hope more women will run for council

STEPPING DOWN: After serving four and three terms respectively with Parkes Shire Council, Deputy Mayor Cr Barbara Newton and Cr Patrica Smith have decided not to re-stand in September 4's council election. Photo: Christine Little
STEPPING DOWN: After serving four and three terms respectively with Parkes Shire Council, Deputy Mayor Cr Barbara Newton and Cr Patrica Smith have decided not to re-stand in September 4's council election. Photo: Christine Little

After serving a combined 30 years in local government, two of Parkes' only three current female councillors have decided not to re-stand in September's council election.

But the pair hope that after their years of civic leadership they have inspired and encouraged more women to consider running for council.

Deputy Mayor Barbara Newton was elected onto Parkes Shire Council in 2004, serving four terms which have amounted to 17.5 years.

She has also been deputy mayor for the last six years and upon her appointment became Parkes' first woman in an executive position of council, which includes Goobang Shire Council and Parkes Municipal Council that merged to become Parkes Shire Council.

Councillor Patrica Smith was elected in 2008, serving three terms totalling 13 years.

Before Cr Newton became a councillor she was a director of nursing in aged care and a clinical educator in Sydney, and after some time living in Tullamore and being part of the town's Community Consultative Committee, she was encouraged to run for council.

"I have always been interested in local government and politics at a community level, and I saw the effect it has on communities," she said.

"Because I had dealt with council through the consultative committee I was a bit aware of what was involved.

"I didn't expect to get elected the first time and then I didn't expect to get elected the second time - I would never have thought I'd be here for 17 years."

It was wanting to see things through and feeling like she still had something to give that kept Cr Newton returning to stand for council.

But after four terms she's decided now it's time to step back and enjoy more time with her husband.

"I'm getting older... After four terms I've done my part," she said.

Cr Smith was another who was interested in council affairs and running for council was her opportunity to put her hand up and have a say.

"To be honest, it takes a year and a half to get going," she said, explaining that there was more she wanted to learn and be involved in as her reason for re-standing in the past.

Now that she's turned 71, she too said it's time to step aside and travel more if she can.

"It's time for some new faces and fresh ideas," she said.

GREAT OPPORTUNITY: With Cr Barbara Newton and Cr Patrica Smith not re-standing these council elections, they're hoping their years of service will inspire other women to run for Parkes Shire Council. Photo: Christine Little

GREAT OPPORTUNITY: With Cr Barbara Newton and Cr Patrica Smith not re-standing these council elections, they're hoping their years of service will inspire other women to run for Parkes Shire Council. Photo: Christine Little

Cr Newton said her deputy mayor appointment in 2015 made way for more representation of women in Parkes Council.

"I was delighted in the sense that it was the right time for me," she said.

"The community was excited too, I had women coming up to me and saying 'this is fantastic'. It brought out the focus of women a bit more."

Cr Newton and Cr Smith have both enjoyed being involved in so many different parts of community life.

"What you're doing, the decisions you're making are amazing," Cr Newton said.

"You're part of things that you would never think of being involved in and you meet so many wonderful people."

These are just some of the reasons why Cr Newton and Cr Smith are encouraging more women to stand for council.

"Women bring a different aspect and perspective, we bring more balance to the conversation," they said.

"Don't be afraid, you don't need to know about roads, you don't need to know about everything, you will learn," Cr Newton said.

"One of the big issues in Parkes right now is social and affordable housing which involves women with families and women in domestic violence relationships.

"We really do need more women to really have an input and that's just one issue."

Cr Smith also said for anyone who wants to stand for council "you've got to put your whole heart into it".

"There will be challenges... And you need to be flexible," she said.

"And if you're employed make sure you have the backing from your employer... I was very lucky at Hays Hardware, they were very supportive."

While it's hard to name the highlights over so many years, the two councillors do have a couple of favourites.

For Cr Newton it's been the cultural aspect receiving more recognition from council - the formation of the Parkes Shire Arts Advisory Council in 2019 and the approval of more cultural projects are two examples.

A major highlight for Cr Smith has been the Memorial Hill project, which she helped to initiate.

"In 2013 I put forward a Q and A about the memorial site and to have it cleaned up for the 2015 [centenary of the Anzacs] anniversary," she said.

"I had capable help with that... We had a lot of volunteer and community support... Cr George Pratt was involved too."

With the help of local businesses and community groups, the work involved upgrading and improving the area, painting the memorial, installing gardens and chairs, and constructing steps and walkways.

"It took a few years but it was done in time for the anniversary and it's still going," Cr Smith said.

"It was a huge thing for me during my time on council."

Cr Smith has also enjoyed being part of community committees as a council representative, in particular with Parkes Early Childhood Centre, Meals on Wheels and the Community Housing Committee.

Both councillors mentioned the Parkes Special Activation Precinct and the decades of hard work and forward thinking from council to help make it a reality.

"I've enjoyed being part of some very good decisions and a very solid council," Cr Newton said.

"You don't do anything on your own in council.

"I've always been very proud of our council and proud of our staff.

"We're very highly regarded among higher governments as an innovative and well structured council."

Cr Smith said she will miss the job and the friendships she's made with her fellow councillors.

"I've thoroughly enjoyed my time on council," she said.

"I wish all the best to the new elected councillors."

Cr Newton and Cr Smith wanted to thank the community for their support, encouragement and trust, and their fellow councillors and mayor.

"To the senior staff too," Cr Smith said.

"When I first became a councillor, I must have looked a bit lost or overwhelmed and Kent Boyd, who wasn't the general manager then, introduced himself and made me feel so at home. I will always remember that.

"And thanks to my friends and family for helping me be a councillor. Without them I couldn't have done it."