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FATHER of independents

Published:
04/05/2017
Author:
Think Local

Ted Mack is sitting quietly on a couch decorated with a colourful rug when North Shore Living arrives at the former Mosman mayor's home.

The man dubbed 'the father of independents', now aged 83, has always been a staunch advocate for open democracy - he famously rejected the financial perks of public office.

While the North Shore local retired from public service Officially in 1996, he still takes an active interest in local issues.

Mr Mack believes the current state government plans to amalgamate North Shore councils, is the "worst thing to happen in the history of local government".

"It's a disaster," he tells North Shore Living.

"There is plenty wrong with local government but the size of the electorates is not one of them."

An architect by trade, Mr Mack was born in Paddington in 1933. He entered politics in 1974 - running as an independent for North Sydney Council, after it approved plans for a 17- storey tower near his back fence.

Mack served on the council for 14 years, mayor for eight. Concurrently, he was state member for North Shore from 1981 to 1988, resigning just before becoming eligible for a parliamentary pension.

In 1990, he was elected federal member for North Sydney.

After his 1996 retirement, he stayed in politics, accepting a role in the Australian Constitutional Convention, and last year helped out on Dr Stephen Ruff's election campaign for his old federal seat. Mack attributes his popularity to his advocacy for open governance, community engagement and the need to reduce wasteful expenditure in government - a stance that saw him sell the mayoral car to help buy community buses.

"I was preaching the idea that people had a right to be involved in every decision that affected them - that nothing council did should ever be kept from its rate payers or residents," he explains.

"In the years I was mayor, there was no closed meeting at North Sydney. Every decision made was made in open council. They'd never had that before".

 Under Mack's leadership, North Sydney Council was the first to commission a heritage study.

He created the Michael Fitzpatrick Civic Centre, pursued alternative income streams, and refurbished North Sydney Oval - one of his proudest achievements.

"It was just a pretty seedy local oval - it had just one grand stand. And it had a terrible pitch and no drainage system. Now, it's probably the best oval in Sydney," he reflects.

Even though he worked on a national level at one stage, Mack concedes working in local government was the most rewarding work of all, because it led to tangible results that benefited the community.

 

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