Newspaper article Tweed Daily News (Tweed Heads, Australia)

Murwillumbah's First Mayor Considered a Controversial Choice; Looking Back with Di Millar

Newspaper article Tweed Daily News (Tweed Heads, Australia)

Murwillumbah's First Mayor Considered a Controversial Choice; Looking Back with Di Millar

Article excerpt

IN April 1902 Mr J Withford JP, who headed up the committee elected by the town residents to promote the cause for Murwillumbah's incorporation as a municipality, was requested by the NSW Premier and Chief Secretary to seek the nomination of a suitable person for the appointment as electoral officer of the proposed municipal district.

The committee met on Friday night, April 24 and elected Murwillumbah auctioneer Mr Robert Campbell Ewing, who drew up an electoral roll of those entitled to vote.

Once this was done he advertised for nominations from those enrolled who wished to run for council.

Nominations were received from E H Bruce, G Flick, H Gill, J M Holston, I McIlrath, E Osborne, F W Salmon, J Sharp, P Smith, P Street, R Thornton and J Withford.

As only six aldermen were required, Mr Ewing announced a poll for August 20, 1902. All the candidates addressed the ratepayers at a public meeting where they outlined their reasons for standing and stated what they would do if elected.

On Friday night, August 22 the six successful candidates, Messrs Ralph Thornton, Isaac McIlrath, Edward Osborne, Patrick Smith, Peter Street and John Withford, together with the returning officer Mr Ewing, met in the Murwillumbah School of Arts to elect Murwillumbah's first mayor.

The venue was filled with townspeople who cheered loudly when Ald Withford nominated Ald Patrick Smith to be appointed mayor of the municipality.

Ald Thornton then moved that Ald Peter Street be appointed mayor. The voting was tied, with Aldermen Withford, Osborne and Smith on one side and Alderman McIlrath, Thornton and Street on the other.

In a decision that caused some consternation in the town Mr Ewing gave his casting vote to Mr Peter Street.

Although Mr Ewing was not necessarily bound to cast his vote in favour of the candidate that received the highest number of votes, many people felt he had made a agrave blundera as the ratepayers' vote seemed to reflect their wish for Mr Patrick Smith to be elected mayor.

For a number of years he had been popularly dubbed Murwillumbah's prospective first mayor and Mr Smith had made no secret of his aspirations to hold the position. …

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