If you’ve been to a Cumberland Council meeting in the last 15 months, you’ll know administrator Viv May hasn’t been a popular man.
Despite the criticism, he said the role has been a privilege as he makes way for the incoming council, which will be elected on Saturday.
The former Auburn and Holroyd LGAs were merged with parts of Parramatta to form Cumberland shortly after Mr May came out of retirement to become the administrator of Auburn, who had been sacked.
“I’ve loved it,” he said.
“It’s not every day you get to start up a new council. It hasn’t been a normal merger. It’s involved bits of different councils so in effect, we’ve started again. The criticism hasn’t worried me. I was a council general manager for 27 years, so I’ve developed some thick skin. From day one, I said that tough decisions had to be made in the best interests of everyone.”
In a frank interview with the Sun, Mr May described the relationship between former Holroyd councillors and staff as “a little too cosy”.
He listed restoring public confidence in local government at Auburn as his biggest accomplishment and has news for those behind the Bring Back Holroyd campaign: “It’s time for some former Holroyd councillors to move on.”
“If they’re reelected and sulk for the next three years because of the name, they’ll lose the opportunity to build a new council,” he said. “I’ve done my best to bring fresh eyes and a new environment to the council. It’s now up to residents to make their decision at the ballot box.”
The Merrylands CBD revitalisation was put on hold after an independent review questioned the project’s feasibility. The former council’s plans for a wellness centre have also been questioned.
“Over-promised and under-delivered is how I’d put Holroyd,” Mr May said.
“I’m not saying the Merrylands revitalisation wasn’t visionary or can’t happen. But there was no business case.”
His hardest decision was refusing a proposed marae cultural centre in Greystanes.
“That caused a few sleepless nights as the proponents are dedicated and lovely people,” Mr May said.
“I was under a lot of pressure to move it forward. But the local residents weren’t listened to. And I don’t think the department would have approved it anyway.”
He paid tribute to current staff and residents.
“I have learned a lot from the people of this wonderful community,” he said.
Mr May has high hopes for the incoming council.
“I think they will quickly settle down and get on with the job,” he said.
“I just hope they embrace the opportunity they’ve been given. There are exciting times ahead but there’s a lot of work to be done.”
He had parting words for Parramatta Council after a recent dispute resulted in arbitration.
“Cumberland is not the little brother Holroyd and Auburn used to be and will no longer be taken for granted. This council has the scale and capacity to be an equal partner.”