Cr Pelz stepping away

Cr Pelz stepping away

Long serving councillor, Marianne Pelz, has decided to step down from the East Gippsland Shire at the conclusion of the current term in October and not seek re-election.
Cr Pelz, from Newmerella, was first elected to council back in 2008 and has served three consecutive terms.
Cr Natalie O’ Connell, has also decided not to re-nominate for election raising fears that the new council elected in October could be devoid of female representation.
During her time on the East Gippsland Shire Council, Cr Pelz served as mayor for a year during 2015-2016.
She says it’s time for her to take
a break and devote time to the family trucking business, R. Pelz Haulage, where she oversees the bookwork.
However, Cr Pelz, says she hopes other women will put themselves forward and nominate for election so East Gippsland Shire Council doesn’t end up with a male dominated council.
Cr Pelz admits it’s a tough job, particularly the mayor’ s gig, which she says Cr O’Connell also found challenging.
“I found as a female mayor, and I chatted extensively around the state with other female mayors, and they all said that the men absolutely carry on when there’s a female mayor,” Cr Pelz said.
“And they (men) liken it to their mother and being rebellious and being anti-mum. They don’t actually realise they’re doing it, but they normally misbehave and play up.
“It’s a very common occurrence (and) it’s quite disrespectful.
“I came away from my mayoral term thinking they can have that, that was over exaggerated and I didn’t fully enjoy it, but I think there were a few councillors at the table who made sure I didn’t enjoy it too.”
Cr O’Connell was asked by the Advertiser her reflections on her time as mayor.
While not wanting to be drawn specifically on whether she endured a difficult time from male colleagues, Cr O’Connell did say: “I had good support from some of my male peers”.
Cr Pelz recalled after returning from a statewide women’s suffrage event in which she had the opportunity to rub shoulders and exchange notes with other women leaders and councillors, she informed her male councillor colleagues that their behavior was a natural instinct to rebel against the dominance of maternal characters in their life.
Cr Pelz said the women’s suffrage anniversary also made her reflect on how far women have progressed in society since being allowed to vote. White Australian women were given that opportunity in 1902 while Indigenous women had to wait until 1962 for the same right.
“While we’ve come a long way, we haven’t come far enough,” Cr Pelz said, citing the epresentation of women on boards was still below 50 per cent and “our obligation to females” hasn’ t been fulfilled.
“We need more females to stand up and to challenge themselves and put themselves out there, they have so much to contribute,” Cr Pelz said.
“I always find when I’m in a meeting, you actually stimulate conversation about all aspects of what you’re actually making a decision on and it’s great to contribute and I think females bring that out at a table and I think it’s a really important thing that people can all be heard because everyone has something to contribute.”
While admitting she found being mayor difficult, describing it as a “puppetry role”, Cr Pelz said she felt much more at ease “as a councillor in the background” being able to deliver for her community.
Despite her decision to step down, Cr Pelz hopes there won’t be a vacuum of women come the October council elections.
“I really hope if there are females standing that our community, which I think is 67 per cent females, need to support those females because they really have a great contribution to make,” she said.
“I just really feel if the women put themselves out there, we need to support them.
“I’d be disappointed if females did have a go and they weren’t supported. I’d be really disappointed for them. They just need to take the opportunity and have a go and upskill yourself as best you can. Get out there and get amongst it, that’s what the men do.”
Cr Pelz says women are a valuable asset on council because they are more likely to be curious and question officers’ recommendations.
While she admits there have been times on council “that have been absolutely right out of line” Cr Pelz is the first to admit she takes “chauvinistic comments with a grain of salt”.
“I don’t take insult to it because I just think, well, that’s your comment, and who really cares any way. I don’t carry grudges in that sense,” she said.
To date, three women have put their names forward in the hope of being elected on the next council. Bairnsdale’s Sally Kendall and local GP Jane Greacen have nominated as has former mayor, Mendy Urie, of Eagle Point.
Ms Urie previously served as an East Gippsland Shire councillor for seven years, stepping down in 2012.
She was mayor for three of those years and told the Advertiser that the role “is challenging for so many different reasons”.
“I think women leading in high profile positions is still difficult for some people to accept,” Ms Urie said.
“We know that those boards with female representation perform much better.”
Cr Pelz is at odds with recent comments by fellow councillors that not enough professional people stand for council.
“Councillors are voted in by the people and we are representatives of our community and not everyone is a round peg going in a round hole, basically there’s a lot of square pegs that don’t fit in round holes. That’s fine too,” she said.
She says a highlight of her role on council was becoming involved with the South Eastern Australia Transport Systems (SEATS) group whose members are made up from 16 councils up along the eastern seaboard stretching from Dandenong to Wollongong.
She became chair of the group in the past two years, which advocates for transport safety, and enjoyed the close networking and friendship opportunities it provided.
Cr Pelz says she was able to bring to the table her experience of being involved in a transport business and her contributions were respected.
She was delighted to be informed that she had personally been responsible for $60 million dollars in safety upgrades for road users in the Eastern region.
Since being elected to council back in 2008, Cr Pelz says the family transport business has grown significantly and now is the right time to step down and support her husband, Richard, in running the operation.
“With the bushfires we had the highway closed for seven weeks, that took a toll on our business and my husband needed the support from me back here in our office,” she said.
“Our bookkeeper left to go and join the police force, she wanted a career change, and I thought my best spot is to be back here in the business.”


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