King anoints deputy, but Chant may be leading team of fresh faces

By Alex Easton

LISMORE mayor Merv King will lead the departure of as many as half the city's councillors at next year's election.

Cr King said he would not contest the September 2008 election and effectively backed his deputy, Cr John Chant, to succeed him.

Cr Chant yesterday said he was pleased by Cr King's faith in him, but he would not decide whether to contest the mayoral post until after Christmas. He expects the next term to be his last on council.

Crs Barry Crimmins and Ros Irwin also said they would not contest the election, while Crs Brian Henry, John Hampton and David Tomlinson were undecided.

In a statement yesterday, Cr King said: "It is not my intention to stand for re-election at the 2008 local government elections.

"Because of my age, I am not prepared to commit to another four-year tenure.

"I have had five wonderful years as mayor of Lismore, a position which I accepted with humility and great pride.

"I am extremely delighted with the progress and development of Lismore and have been pleased to see these achievements without the council asking for special rate increases.

"I have a year to go as mayor, and the current council has many more things to do.

"I will be a part of that process and my efforts as mayor, together with the assistance of my very able deputy, Cr John Chant, and all councillors will not cease until the election comes around in 12 months.

"It is my hope that Cr Chant will receive the level of support that I received at the 2004 election and will be able to keep the same level of progress in place that we have seen over the past five or six years."

Cr King was elected to the council in 1995. He became the city's acting mayor in August, 2002, under difficult circumstances, stepping into the role after his predecessor, the late Bob Gates, fell ill.

He was sworn in formally the following year and went on to become one of the city's most respected leaders, winning a popular vote to maintain the post at the 2004 poll.

Cr King said he and his wife, Bernice, would remain in the area. He intends to continue his work as a committee member with the North Coast National Show Society.

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