Peter Blackmore has weathered many a tough storm during his decades in public office but none tougher than the past 12 months.
This time last year it was the end of an era when Mr Blackmore stepped down from public life after serving as State Member for Maitland and leading the city for 22 years as mayor.
So how has retirement been treating him? “It’s bloody tough. I just want to be in there again. I miss it like you wouldn’t believe,” he said.
Fairfax Media spoke to Mr Blackmore to see how he spent his first year outside the spotlight and to gauge his view on how new Mayor Loretta Baker and her newly elected council are performing.
“It’s bloody difficult – I really miss the role and the people. Wherever I go people ask me how is retirement and to be honest, it’s really hard. I think Loretta is doing is a great job. She is doing it her way which is what I would expect her to do. One thing I’d say to council is keep listening to your community. Let them share in what council is doing for this great city.
“As mayor I had good councils right through but when you look at Loretta’s situation and take into account that she is working with four members of her party against the other eight (councillors), she hasn’t got the numbers so not everything is going her way,” Mr Blackmore said. He was referring to Cr Baker’s opposition from Team Penfold, led by Cr Philip Penfold who was pipped to the post by Cr Baker for mayor. Cr Penfold has been courting some Liberal councillors, including Cr Sally Halliday who he successfully nominated for deputy mayor.
“Loretta has had a lot thrown at her in her first 12 months – being the first female mayor, using her casting vote. She’s taken over the reins of a progressive council that brought the community projects like No.1 Sportsground and The Levee. The bar was set quite high,” he said. “She’s had a lot to contend with and has had to work her backside off.”
Mr Blackmore said council’s wider administration was also “going great”, facing the challenge of dealing with new councillors with no local government experience.
As mayor, one of the hardest things Mr Blackmore had to do was hand over the chair to Cr Baker. “I’d like to be back but it’s over. I’ve had my time. It’s someone else’s turn to have a go. I miss the role – talking to the people, but I need to get over that. There’s one thing I don’t miss though - the tie and the suit.”