27 March 2023

With city's growth in focus, Wagga Mayor Dallas Tout's priority for 2023 is to stay on top of his game

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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Dallas Tout

Wagga Wagga Mayor Dallas Tout. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

We all have opinions about our local council and what it has or hasn’t got right, but how well do you know the men and women elected to represent their community in local government? In this series, Region Riverina speaks with Wagga Wagga City Councillors to find out what makes them tick.

Who is Dallas Tout? I’ve been a councillor for 23 years and served in two different councils, Gundagai and Wagga. In 1996, I was elected to Gundagai Council at 34 and served for 12 years. I was the deputy mayor in those years, and then we moved to Wagga in 2008. I stood for the 2012 election in Wagga and was successful; this is my 10th year. I originally got into council because of my family and community upbringing. I was always involved in community service and organisations. I call being in local government a community service on steroids.

At the same time, for 20 years, I worked as a full-time finance manager at Charles Sturt University. My background is in finance, but I branched out into community service. I am also on several community organisations and a couple of boards. I’m involved with Carevan Wagga, Relay For Life, and I’m also on the board of RDA Riverina.

How have the past 12 months been on the council? I would say fantastic. Particularly for me, being elected Mayor of the city was a real honour. I represent the council at some forums and in certain situations, but the governing body is still the nine councillors. I take the responsibility quite seriously to ensure that I’m representing the whole body of councillors, but also keeping in mind that the decision-making body is the entire nine councillors. So, having an opportunity to undertake those sorts of roles through the last 12 months as Mayor has been really a blessing and a real honour. I thoroughly enjoyed being involved across the whole community, whether going to meetings and forums, but also what I particularly love is being involved with other community organisations. I’m heavily involved in the refugee space. I’m really passionate about all those areas, and I love doing them.

READ ALSO Councillor and mental health advocate Dan Hayes outlines new year wish list

What’s been your biggest achievement so far? I think the biggest achievement and being a councillor and doing well at it is actually not having one single achievement. It’s over the breadth of the local government, what’s involved and keeping on top of all those areas and successfully managing their progress. Whether housing, skills, refugees, business development, and actively contributing to and actioning things to progress all those for the betterment of the city and the region. Some of the events that happened in the year have been amazing, with the opening of the PCYC and RiFL, but for me, it’s bigger than that. It’s about a whole range of things, doing them well and keeping on top of them because that’s our responsibility as councillors.

What are your priorities for 2023? This year will have far more growth than last year. A lot of capital investment is coming into the region this year and next year. There’s going to be a lot of population and housing growth. And along with it, there will be plenty of business growth with the development of the Special Activation Precinct and other works being done at the two bases.

A lot of work is happening; it’s managing and staying ahead of the game and ensuring that we have plans, strategies and infrastructure in place. Things that need to be in place for that projected growth to happen are there: whether that be roads, subdivisions, land sales, land availability, all of those sorts of things that are the foundation of growth in the city. We have to make sure for this year and particularly next year – we put things in place or grow things that are already in place to ensure we can manage that growth.

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Is there anything different you’d like to see on the council? It’s ensuring we are over everything. It’s not something different, but as the council, we ensure we have our finger on the pulse of what’s happening or emerging trends and be even more actively involved, and we already are. When making decisions, we know what’s happening in the city, what’s changing and the emerging trends.

What’s your vision for Wagga? My vision is always couched in terms of not Wagga but Wagga and the region. Even though every local government area is autonomous, the things and growth happening are at a regional level. There’ll be impacts if there’s a major industry growth in Wagga or Junee. The housing won’t be impacted in just Junee or Wagga; it’s a regional thing. People live in one place and work in another. We must ensure that, as a region, we’re working together when dealing with state and federal governments. We are also autonomous and have our own opinions, but as a region, we need to be more actively involved in the strategic space.

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