DERWENT Valley Mayor Michelle Dracoulis has quit her job in the local arts community so she can focus more fully on her new role leading council.
In the past six weeks, Mrs Dracoulis has plunged into the business end of leading a municipality both in the council chamber and out in the community.
Among her first acts was to quit as the coordinator at New Norfolk’s regional art centre, established a year ago, and focus on the multiple issues and demands created by her new role.
Last weekend was her final exhibition.
“Art and photography are my profession, but I can best serve this place as mayor rather than in the arts,’’ Mrs Dracoulis said.
“The bigger picture requires I consider all things across the community and frankly, as council is contributing financial and other support to The Barracks Art Gallery (T-BAG) I need to make sure there’s no conflict of interest between the two roles.”
The current series of exhibits of the work of local artists Tricky Walsh and Mish Meijers, along with Steven Carson, will continue.
The exhibition by the three artists of national standing is taking place the Willow Court complex.
Earlier this year, the council AGM had to be cancelled for technical reasons, so Mrs Dracoulis’ first meeting of council in March was essentially two meetings in one and ran for nearly three hours.
“The long interval gave people a lot of time to think about things,” Mrs Dracoulis said.
The new mayor is a good listener; a walk in town sees her drawn into conversations with passers-by, baristas, dog-walkers and council employees alike.
They’re all giving her their view of the New Norfolk they’d like to see.
And that’s what Mrs Dracoulis wants to see and hear – discussions about education and health.
“In our local population, only eight per cent of people have university degrees. We need to make sure anyone can go to university, and help facilitate that, so that those skills and education come back and help us build this place.”
She holds no illusions about the challenges facing the Derwent Valley.
“While the world has discovered this is an ideal commuting distance from Hobart and Glenorchy, and homes are relatively affordable, that comes with a downside.
“An increase in population means we have a need for more infrastructure and services, particularly health. “We have an excellent hospital here near the Council Chambers that could run 24/7.
“Much of the critical health work can be handled by nurse practitioners.
“We have one, we need five. “
“This actually frightens me, because people are ignoring their health because they cannot get to see a doctor. They end up having to take an ambulance all the way to Hobart.”
“As for local government, because we are the closest to local people, we’re expected to know and to handle their needs.”
“We can effect change, make a real world difference to this Derwent Valley community.”