Meet the Mayor – Oberon Council’s Kathy Sajowitz

Councillor Kathy Sajowitz was elected to Oberon Council in 2012, having retired and settled in Oberon in 2005 after many years in office administration.

She was elected as Mayor at an Extraordinary Meeting in July 2015.

Besides representing Oberon Council on numerous external organisations, Cr Sajowitz is on the executive of the Country Mayors Association of NSW.

She is the proud parent of three children, has seven grandchildren, and four beloved great grandbabies. Her other interests are family history, theatre and the odd glass of good wine.

Oberon Council, in the Central West region of NSW, includes the townships of Oberon, Black Springs, Shooters Hill, Edith, O’Connell and Burraga.

Q: What does your typical mayoral working day look like?

Sometimes frightening, constantly busy, occasionally challenging but always enjoyable.

Q: What is the best aspect of your job?

My interaction with what is an amazing community here in Oberon and the sense of achievement when good things happen as a result of Council’s work.

Q: What is the worst aspect of your job?

Probably not seeing as much of my family as I would like. I have four new great grandchildren living in and around Sydney.

Maybe the sense of regret when Council decisions disappoint members of the community. It would be great to please all the people all the time … but not realistic.

Q: What is the most rewarding project you have worked on during your time in local government?

There are several but bringing our community through the NSW council amalgamations [proposed by the Baird State Government in 2015] is up there. It was proposed to amalgamate Oberon with a neighbouring council; our stalwart community stood up, we invested funds and went to court against the NSW Government to fight this issue.

We were fortunate to be still “fighting this good fight” when it was announced that all proposed amalgamations not enacted were “off the table” and Oberon has not looked back.   

Q: Your council is among the many affected by the Black Summer bushfires. What are the lessons, looking ahead, for disaster preparedness and mitigation at the local level?

We are first looking to both the Federal Bushfire Royal Commission and NSW Bushfire Inquiry outcomes – we as a rural community experienced in local firefighting are well aware of what needs to be done at a local level but sometimes bureaucracy gets in the way. Oberon Council made submissions to both inquiries.

Q: The coronavirus pandemic has created serious financial headaches for councils. What can be done longer-term to ensure local government funding is adequate to provide the services residents, businesses and communities expect.

I think both State and Federal support for councils and the population in general during this Covid Crisis has been very good. A situation changing daily is difficult to react to.

From a council level, information flow has been good and funding is available to stimulate our local economies. It is up to individual councils to look at impact on budgets and plan accordingly whilst working with other levels of government.

The third level of government long-term needs to receive a fair share of taxpayers’ funds – and the transfer of services needs to be accompanied by a corresponding transfer of funding. Constant cost-shifting is not acceptable.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you have received regarding local community service as an elected official?  

Ears open, mouth closed – everyone’s opinion is of value, and develop a thick skin.

Q: If someone standing for council were to ask you for advice, how would you respond?

I would encourage them to stand, especially women – commitment brings personal rewards for councillors and for the community.

Be prepared to give up part of your life. This is especially relevant advice if you live in a small rural community where it takes an hour to pop into shop for a litre of milk and if you forget what is in your diary just ask a member of the community – they will be able to tell you!

Q: What is your favourite place, and why?

Apart from my home that has my amazing long-suffering  husband ensconced within it.

I love our local library and will champion it at every opportunity.

We are lucky enough to live close to Jenolan Caves, Kanangra Boyd and Abercrombie National Parks also Mayfield Garden the largest cool climate garden in the southern hemisphere. Our small villages are unique our countryside spectacular.

Oberon is definitely my overall favourite place. Do I sound biased? Well I am.

Q: How would you reflect on the difference that you’ve made in your community and local government in general?

Ultimately this is for others to judge, I strive to be the best I can. I make the observation that in local government no one person achieves anything really, it takes a team.

I am fortunate enough to have a cohesive supportive robust council, a great staff, and last but not least a truly wonderful caring community. How could I go wrong?