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Farewell to a great leader

Weekly column from Council Courier e-newsletter by CEO Greg Hallam, Friday, 6 October 2017.

Mayors like the late Butch Lenton, who sadly passed away last Sunday, are the reason I'm still working at the LGAQ after 25 years. Leaders like Butch are my inspiration and drive me to want to come to work. They are, simply, people worth fighting for.

In tough times like those Queensland local government is currently enduring, champions like Butch inspire us all to lift our gaze to all that's good about our sphere of government and not be downtrodden or disconsolate about the few who cheapen our reputation. We are able to take our solace from a simple motor mechanic who walked the walk, dreamed big, put in the hard yards and never sought recognition for what he did. It's possible to be that sort of leader and our late mate from Winton showed us the way.

Three words - selfless, genuine, inspired - come to mind when considering men and women like Butch. He was a fair dinkum and the quintessential good bloke, who was western Queensland and Winton to his boot laces. He proved you don't have to have a doctorate or be a superhuman to succeed as a mayor. What you do need is decency, self-deprecation, persistence and an abundance of common sense and courage, all of which he had in spades.

I am proud to have called him a mate for nigh on 20 years, firstly as a councillor and then mayor for the past five and a half years. Butch loved everything from motorbikes to dinosaurs and rugby league but especially his family, including his local government family at Winton and state wide.

Tragically, Butch is one of two members of the broader Lenton family to die in office. His uncle Eric died of a heart attack while holding the mayoral role in 1995.

I and my Peak Service colleagues especially enjoyed working with him over the last few years on two big projects _ Australia’s first grid-connected geothermal power plant and of course the rebuild of the Waltzing Matilda Centre into a $22 million ripper of a tourism facility. Butch won't get to see them come to fruition as the two path breaking projects are due for completion in December this year and April 2018, respectively. But they will form part of his legacy along with a template of how to be a successful mayor in a rural community.

It's for these reasons that Peak Services managing director Brent Reeman has announced the creation of a perpetual Butch Lenton Memorial Bush Council Innovation Award of $10,000 to presented at each annual conference starting in Brisbane in 2018.

Vale Butch Lenton.

Communities like Winton are about as far removed from the allegations of sharp practices and questionable dealings that has occupied the Crime and Corruption Commission as it pursued its Operation Belcarra investigation. The CCC’s report, handed down this week, contained 31 recommendations for reform. The LGAQ supports all but two of them: a ban on accepting election campaign donations from property developers and a return to the empowering councils to eject individual councillors from a meeting if they have a conflict of interest.

It’s important to remember that the bulk of the reforms which State Cabinet will consider on Monday will really only affect our 20 biggest councils. Nonetheless we will continue to defend fiercely the interests of local government while backing to the hilt the need for better transparency and accountability.


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