Asher exit city’s third in a year.

July 31, 2023 7:56 am in by
asher morrison

The City of greater Geelong is losing its third councillor in less than a year after its longest serving councillor and former mayor Stephanie Asher called it quits.

Asher’s departure is, she said in a statement, due to her Melbourne-based work obligations as a project director.

“I will also soon be moving out of the Geelong municipality,” Ms Asher said.

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“Reflecting on my 68 months spent as a member of Geelong council, 33 months as mayor, I feel deeply honoured to have served this passionate community and contributed to some significant changes which will help shape the future.”

Ms Asher’s statement includes a top-ten list of achievements during her time as mayor, including planning policies that locked residential growth out of large swathes of the Bellarine Peninsula and leading the city through the pandemic.

She recounted sending a personal note to Premier Daniel Andrews during COVID “to encourage outdoor activities” as a milestone, saying the strong advocacy helped “keep the beaches open.”

Her high profile departure comes after a turbulent 12-months at the city that’s been marked by the exit of councillors Kylie Grzybek and Sarah Mansfield, former CEO Martin Cutter, director Guy Wilson-Browne and at least 19 other positions that were made redundant in an effort to slash costs and balance councils books.

Council’s relationship with the state Labor government has never really recovered since Ms Asher took her leave as mayor to run as the Liberal party candidate for the federal seat of Corangamite.

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Premier Andrews has made a point of criticising the council during recent visits to the region and his government appointed monitors to oversee the search for a new CEO, before it settled on incoming CEO Ali Wastie.

After suffering a bruising loss to incumbent Libby Coker at the 2022 federal election, Ms Asher returned to the mayoral position but a short time later relinquished the role to her deputy and fellow Liberal, Trent Sullivan, citing “negativity” and the need for a good working relationship with the incoming federal Labor government.

“It has become apparent that the best thing for achieving progress – particularly in relation to the vital working relationship between the new federal government and the council – is to have a change of mayor,” she said at the time.

Cr Sullivan paid tribute to the outgoing councillor, and noted they’d first both been elected in 2017.

“It has been an honour and a privilege to work alongside Ms Asher,” he said.

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“She has provided great leadership, advocacy, and clear direction during nearly six years of dedicated service to the community.”

It’s unclear if a byelection or countback from the Victorian Electoral Commission will determine who replaces Ms Asher.

Geelong Broadcasters has reached out to Stephanie Asher for comment.

Image: Stephanie Asher on the campaign trail in Geelong with former Prime Minister Scott Morrison (Tim Lamacraft).