Bob Stewart has resigned from his position as general manager of the newly-merged Snowy Valleys Council, sending a seismic shock today through council circles across Tumut and Tumbarumba.
His resignation comes less than six months after being appointed by the state government to the role of general manager of Snowy Valleys Council, the new organisation created by the forced amalgamation of Tumut and Tumbarumba councils.
He was formerly the general manager of Tumut Council, a position he’d held for almost seven years.
Tumbarumba’s Kay Whitehead, the current assistant general manager, will be the acting interim general manager.
Mr Stewart’s resignation inevitably raises questions about the progress of amalgamating the culturally disparate Tumbarumba and Tumut councils into a new organisation. It is an open secret within the new council that the process is not proceeding smoothly.
Administrator Paul Sullivan said it was with regret that he announced he had received the resignation of Mr Stewart.
“Bob has conveyed to me that he felt the time was right to leave to allow for new blood to step up in to the position and steer the new council,” Mr Sullivan said.
“His departure marks the end of an era and I want to thank Bob for his 40 years of service and dedication to local government, and for his loyalty to the community.”
“Kay has a wealth of knowledge and experience in local government and the finance sector. I look forward to working alongside her as we roll out the new organisational structure and branding of Snowy Valleys Council.”
Mr Stewart was appointed general manager of the now defunct Tumut Shire Council in October of 2008.
He came from Liverpool Plains Shire, where he was a Director of Environment and Community Services for eight years. He replaced Chris Adams in the Tumut job.
Mr Stewart had been in local government for almost four decades, including 20 years as the chief planner and economic development officer at Griffith, as well as spending time at Cabonne Shire.
His time at the helm in Tumut has been an eventful one for the council.
He stepped in to the role during a particularly acrimonious term for the council’s elected representatives.
In 2010, the region was battered by floods, which returned in 2012, and under Mr Stewart’s watch the council was responsible for one of the largest infrastructure recovery projects in its history, totalling $20m.
Mr Stewart has been an outspoken supporter of amalgamations throughout the local government reform process, a stance that was unpopular among the Gundagai and Tumbarumba communities.
He never wavered from the belief that Tumut’s best interests would be served by merging with Tumbarumba, and preferably, Gundagai, even as Tumut councillors ultimately backed away at the last minute from the merger concept.