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The Ocean Grove Voice (OGV) spoke exclusively to new Bellarine Ward councillor and Ocean Grove local Stephanie Asher (SA).
A successful professional writer, speaker and published author, Asher won more primary votes than any other Bellarine Ward candidate after 75 per cent of the vote had been counted over the weekend.
She was vying for one of three positions as a Bellarine Ward councillor.
At the time the Voice went to print, Asher had collected 10,984 first preference votes, which was more than a quarter of the primary vote at 27.38 per cent.
Asher joins fellow new Bellarine Ward councillors Jim Mason from Marcus Hill and Portarlington based real estate worker Trent Sullivan.
The 49-year-old joins City Hall after being a standout candidate after polls closed on 27 October.
Final provisional results were announced on Saturday 4 November.
She ran second to Keith Fagg and Darryn Lyons in the directly elected City of Geelong mayoral elections in 2012 and 2013 and was an independent candidate in the Federal seat of Corio in 2013.
There are 56,364 voters in the Bellarine Ward.
1. (OGV) What have you learnt from your previous campaigns after running second in both the directly elected City of Greater Geelong mayoral elections and nominating as an independent candidate for the Federal Member for Corio seat at the 2013 federal election?
SA: “I have learned you can’t plan to win because it is like a ‘sliding doors’ moment, you have to be prepared for either being successful or unsuccessful. It can be quite tricky because you really have to believe whole-heartedly that you are going to win because you have to commit yourself fully to the campaign, but equally I have come second in two mayoral elections. There are no prizes for second and when the count is finished and you are not there, then you have got to make sure you have got your day job to go back to.”
2. (OGV) What do you see as the main three major challenges and priorities for the Bellarine? Why did you want to stand in the Bellarine Ward seat?
SA: “The three biggest issues – I think they are actually issues that are relevant to every region and first one is the culture at council and the unity within the councillors, I think that is something everybody wants to see work well. Secondly population growth affects the whole region I think it is particularly a fragile environment here in the Bellarine – I have picked up a lot from the campaign and community conversations and the forums that the issues really bothering people are the same inconsistences in process, the sense of distance with decision making in council for the people of Bellarine and common sense around decisions and processes. The site of the former Point Henry and Moolap salt works is probably the single biggest issue for the Bellarine in the next 20 years – the development of that will define the peninsula. It’s still the same issues driving me to stand for election; if I am going to complain about things I should stand up and do something about it rather playing from the sidelines. Campaigning brings me very close to what the Bellarine community thinks.”
3. (OGV) Given the vast size of Bellarine Ward, what skills will you use and protocols have in place to ensure you work as a team with your fellow elected two Bellarine Ward councillors?
SA: “I am pretty easy to work with and I have watched what has been happening for quite a few years and I think I have got my head around what needs to happen. I have spent a lot of time watching and listening and asking questions and I do know most of the people involved through my network in Geelong. Relationship building, communication and strategy are what I do for a job – I am very comfortable with leadership whether that is in a formal position or not.”
4. (OGV) Reflecting on your Bellarine Ward campaign, what effective strategies did you implement and feel worked during the council elections?
SA: “I think the most important thing is always listening and reflecting back about what people have told you through the campaign. Have the issues changed? Are people more anxious than they were? What are other things that are really important and what are things that are urgent? Reflecting on the campaign, thinking about why I did it and what I learned from the community – you get an excuse to talk to people and understand what their concerns are whether they share your concerns.”
5. (OGV) Given your busy work as a consultant and managing partner of Geelong Consulting Group, published author, Ocean Grove SLSC vice-president role, director of Kids Plus Foundation and director of Committee for Geelong board roles what adjustments will you need to make to facilitate the required time to serve as a Bellarine Ward councillor?
SA: “I will step down as a director of committee for Geelong board – that’s the first step. And I have already put in play for a lot of the management role of the Geelong Consulting Group to some of our senior associates. I have been preparing for this option for a while.”

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