By Kristy Gogolka
2020 has taught us to pivot, shift and understand where we can change for the better. This year was also a Local Government election year, held in March – where Queenslanders voted for new, returning or unopposed Mayors and Councillors to lead their communities for the next four years.
Returning unopposed, we are glad to have you back in the LGAQ family Mayor Andrew Willcox.
In his early years, Mayor Willcox grew up in Bowen, Whitsundays on a tomato farm, where he had plenty of animals, pets and most importantly grew veggies. Once graduated from high school, Mayor Willcox was accepted into university, however decided to defer for 12 months and again for another 12.
During that time, an opportunity came Mayor Willcox’s way when his neighbour decided to sell his property and he jumped at the prospect to invest with his family. The property was split between his parents and himself, and along with the family farm, ran as a business with 60 employees. Soon after his sister joined the business and together with their spouses, they bought out their parents, built up the business to eventually have over 400 employees and supply tomatoes to the whole of Australian market. A strong believer in education, Mayor Willcox completed short courses and certificates helping to better his knowledge and progress the business, but like all good things, his time in the family business came to an end and sold to his sister before moving into local government.
As a Mayor, you are constantly faced with challenges and opportunities, as well as the normal daily tasks. Mayor Willcox is used to challenges, enduring Tropical Cyclone Debbie which reeked havoc on every part of the Whitsunday region in his previous term. However, this year has been extremely challenging due to Covid-19 which has also hindered the recovery and economic growth post disaster.
Mayor Willcox stated “the one positive from that disaster was understanding the cyclone stages and being able to work towards the end.”
“Right now, we do not know where we are in the COVID-19 timeline, are we close to the end or is the worst yet to come. It has been hard to put your best foot forward when you do not know which stage of the cycle we are in.”
The $40 million airport in the Whitsundays is owned by the council. When Australians had to isolate, and the major cities and towns were in lockdown, no one was coming to the Whitsundays. This caused a significant loss of revenue and also caused immense stress amongst our tourism operators.
“One of the challenges we are now facing is the shortage of parking spaces. In the past many visitors travelled to the Whitsundays by air, now more people are driving, so we need to find the carparking for them.” However, Mayor Willcox stated, “please be assured that everyone is always welcome in the Whitsundays”
When asked about isolation for the community, Mayor Willcox said “isolation was tough, however some industries did ok. The hardware, irrigation and plants shops all did very well, because people caught up on their jobs around the house.
“Essentials workers played a big part in helping run communities during peak isolations. It was very important for us to manage everyone and keep them healthy.”
Mayor Willcox loves the Whitsundays especially the people and the laid-back lifestyle.
2020 has been a difficult year for all of us, and the road to recovery is going to be long. However the people from the Whitsundays are a resilient bunch and I am confident that we will be able to overcome all obstacles placed in our way.” Mayor Willcox said.
After speaking with Mayor Willcox, it is clear he has a vision and is passionate about the Whitsundays. He is prepared to do whatever it takes to rebuild the region that he loves.