Five candidates are vying for election for mayor of Ballarat, The Courier has learned, with the incumbent Mayor Samantha McIntosh running for a fourth consecutive term.
Cr McIntosh confirmed to The Courier on Friday her intentions to stand for the position, which will be decided by the city's councillors later this month.
She said that she decided to run again for the sake of consistency in lobbying state and federal governments, adding that she wanted to follow existing plans through to fruition.
It means an unusually crowded field will line up for the most prominent and influential role within the municipality, which will be decided in a ballot of the nine local councillors on Monday October 28.
Other councillors who have confirmed their nomination for the mayoralty are: Cr Des Hudson, who served as Mayor in 2015/6, Cr Mark Harris another former mayor who held the post in 2011/12, Cr Ben Taylor (never previously stood) and Cr Daniel Moloney, who also ran for the post last year.
This is the most complex and interesting mayoral election in the seven years I have been a councillorCr Amy Johnson
Cr Amy Johnson, who confirmed she would not be standing, described it as "the most complex and interesting mayoral election in the seven years I have been a councillor."
One scenario described by more than one councillor could see a three-way tie on the night, which under local law would mean one candidate would be eliminated by being drawn out of a hat.
Cr Moloney meanwhile predicted that there would be changes in the week running up to the election.
"With such a crowded field, I would expect there to be some consolidation over the next week," he told The Courier. "One or two people will need to drop out. We will eventually have three serious contenders - but who they are, I don't know yet."
However the evening plays out, this year's Ballarat mayoral race represents a significant shift in the power dynamics of the town hall.
With such a crowded field, I would expect there to be some consolidation over the next weekCr Daniel Moloney
Cr Taylor - a member of the Liberal Party as is Cr McIntosh - has loyally backed the current mayor in the previous ballots.
The Courier understands that several councillors encouraged Cr McIntosh to stand aside from the mayoral position for the final year of the councillors' four-year term.
Cr McIntosh has a reputation as a fiercely hard worker who is a passionate advocate for Ballarat - but more divisions have been apparent in recent months, both among councillors and in the wider community.
While the majority of the nine councillors want change, the deputy mayor Jim Rinaldi and Cr Grant Tillett - both independent councillors - have traditionally remained loyal to Cr McIntosh.
One councillor described the mayoral choice this month as "anyone but Sam". Cr McIntosh has also come under fire for the handling of the cutting of Visit Ballarat funding and bringing that into council, while other councillors have privately complained about a reluctance to share the media spotlight.
Cr Grant Tillett meanwhile would not publicly confirm who he was backing for the mayoral post, but accused others outside of the councillor group of trying to interfere in the election.
"I am very much disturbed by what's going on," he said. "There are people in the community who are trying to influence the views of the nine councillors.
There are people in the community who are trying to influence the views of the nine councillorsCr Grant Tillett
"They need to keep out of it and let us decide."
Cr Tillett did not specify any individuals involved.
With three full years as mayor under her belt, Cr McIntosh is already the longest serving person in the role since David Vendy completed seven consecutive years up until 2008.
The mayoral role is by far the most prominent of any position in the council. Paid significantly more than other councillors, it is designed as a full-time role while all the other councillor positions are part time.
It involves being the figurehead and main spokesperson for the city, as well as advocating for the region at local, state and federal levels. Cr McIntosh sits on several boards and committees, including Regional Capitals Australia and Regional Cities Victoria.
The person in the role of mayor chairs ordinary council meetings and also has a casting vote in any votes that are tied between councillors.
Nominations for the mayoral role need to be confirmed by Monday October 21.
At a special meeting on the evening of October 28, the position will be decided in elimination rounds. In the first round, the candidate with the fewest nominations will be removed from the race. That continues until there is a straight run-off between two candidates.
Under local law if two or more candidates are tied, the councillor eliminated from the next stage of the vote will be decided by a lot overseen by the chief executive officer.
[The document "Meeting Procedure Local Law 2018" published on the City of Ballarat website outlines the full process - see section 9.]
The 2019/20 mayoral term will be the final one of the existing council before local elections take place in spring next year.
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