End of an era – Cr Virginia West retires from local politics

Virginia West
Virginia West

SCENIC Rim Division Three Councillor, Virginia West will retire from local politics after the upcoming local government election on March 16, 2024.

Cr West said after 20 years as a councillor it is time to pass the baton on.

“It was a difficult decision to make, because I still enjoy it,” she said.

Ray White Canungra

First elected to Beaudesert Shire Council in 2004 when Joy Drescher was Mayor, Virginia worked alongside Vanessa Bull, Don Peterson and Hajnal Ban.

“We were all new except for Don and Vanessa,” recalls Virginia.

“We all got on very well and  Joy was a fabulous Mayor.”

“She was very clear – she expected a united Council.  She said ‘you can have your differences of opinion inside the Council but when you go out you are to be a united force’, and we respected that.”

Virginia is the last councillor from Beaudesert Shire Council to serve in the Scenic Rim Regional Council.

Amalgamation

Cr West’s time in Council included the transition from Beaudesert and Boonah Shire Councils to Scenic Rim Regional Council when the State Government amalgamated Councils throughout Queensland in 2008.

“At the time it was very stressful, for our community and for Boonah,” she said of the amalgamation.

Jimboomba, Flagstone and what is now Yarrabilba became part of Logan City Council where Boonah merged with Beaudesert to form Scenic Rim Regional Council, leaving Scenic Rim to cover a large area with a relatively small rate base.

“It was hard for our ratepayers.  When the amalgamation happened I thought our ratepayers were amazing.”

“They all realised it was going to be tough and we just had to get on with things and make a go of it.” 

“And we didn’t fail – we’ve succeeded as the Scenic Rim.”

Eat Local Week

 Virginia believes one positive that came from amalgamation was Eat Local Week, an event designed to focus on locally grown produce.

“It started in a very small way and has grown so much,” says Virginia.

“I remember being at HOTA with Mayor John Brent and he and I saying to each  other “if it wasn’t for amalgamation we wouldn’t be here celebrating this”.”

Water

Virginia’s initial decision to run for Council in 2004 was due to her concerns about Canungra’s water supply.

“At the time water was a Council responsibility so we worked hard at Beaudesert Shire Council and got as far as creating a plan for off stream storage that would provide about a month’s supply of water for the town.”

“We even went as far as soil testing, and just needed to get funding.”

However, after amalgamation the State Government announced that water and sewerage would be under its control from 2010.

She has continued to advocate for improvements to the town water supply as Councillor.

Roads, bridges and playgrounds

Roads and bridges have been high on Cr West’s agenda throughout her time in Council.

“When we were amalgamated there were 117 old timber bridges that had been let go, they hadn’t been maintained.”

“We got a strategy organised and we were lucky to get lots of funding from the government over time.  So now those bridges have been whittled down to 75.  They’re not just rejuvenated, they are new.”

She is also pleased with the upgrade of the playground in DJ Smith Park which modernised the park and created a more engaging space.

Serving the community

One of Virginia’s greatest strengths is her communication skills.

She was recently made a Life Member of the Canungra Chamber of Commerce in recognition of her support for the Chamber since its inception in 2011.

Former Mayor John Brent said Virginia was one of the best Councillors he has seen when it comes to representing her community.

“Virginia was very much in touch with her constituents.”

“I always found her a wealth of local knowledge and someone I respect enormously.”

“She always dealt with people equally and fairly.”

A privilege

Although there have been challenges over the years, Virginia said she has tried to be there for the residents in her division.  

“I’ve always got back to them, answered their calls and emails and tried to get the best outcome.”

“I’ve been incredibly blessed and privileged to represent so many small communities within the Scenic Rim.  People have been amazing and it has been a delight to represent everybody.”

Virginia served on the Council while raising her family in Canungra.

“I do want to thank my husband and my family for their love and support over the past 20 years.”

Looking foward

Virginia is not retiring from work altogether and said she will seek opportunities in a community based position, and continue to be involved in volunteer roles. 

“I wish Steve all the best and I know he will do a great job – there are plenty of projects that haven’t been finished yet.”

Cr Virginia West with Alex Buchanan and Isabelle Hardy
Cr Virginia West with Alex Buchanan and Isabelle Hardy
About Keer Moriarty 277 Articles
Editor, journo, social media manager and tea lady with Canungra Times.