Northern Grampians Shire mourns a "great civic leader"

Cr Ray Hewitt
Cr Ray Hewitt

Northern Grampians Shire councillors have expressed their shock over the death of fellow councillor Ray Hewitt in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Cr Wayne Rice said Cr Hewitt, a former shire mayor, attended council's last meeting at St Arnaud on Thursday before state-wide council elections this week. He was not standing for re-election.

"We thought Ray didn't look very well, but he had just returned from Melbourne from his first round of chemotherapy," Cr Rice said.

"He only found out he had cancer in the last three weeks, so to find out on Saturday morning at 6am that he had died was an enormous shock to all on council."

Cr Hewitt, a former air traffic controller and semi-retired Stuart Mill businessman, had been a Northern Grampians Shire councillor since November 2005.

He had business interests in Stuart Mill and St Arnaud and had previously worked as an air traffic controller for 30 years at Tullamarine and Avalon airports and in Tasmania.

Cr Rice said Cr Hewitt was a quiet, gentle person, who stood firm as a councillor and worked extremely hard for the shire's people, particularly at St Arnaud and Stuart Mill.

Northern Grampians Mayor Dorothy Patton said Cr Hewitt, 62, was a highly respected member of council, a father of three and a doting grandfather.

"Ray's death is a big shock to his family and friends," Cr Patton said.

"He was at the end of his seven years on council and had instigated and contributed to a lot of projects at St Arnaud and Stuart Mill.

"He was a very active and intelligent man, had a great sense of humour and was full of great ideas for the community. We were fortunate to have our last council meeting together. His contribution will be sorely missed."

Chief executive Justine Linley said council staff were deeply saddened at the news.

"I will personally treasure Ray's wise counsel, friendship, quick wit and dedication to our communities and our staff," Ms Linley said.

"I was very fortunate indeed to have Ray as the mayor during my first full year as a new chief executive, a year that saw us both thrown into the maelstrom of multiple natural disasters, from locusts to landslides to floods.

"All of this involved relentless lobbying for a better deal for our farmers, businesses and families and in working very hard to see improvements in infrastructure for the large and small communities in our shire.

"Ray was there at every meeting and every opportunity and then some. He was a true gentleman and great civic leader and I will miss him."

Cr Hewitt will be farewelled with an 11am service at St Arnaud Town Hall on October 29, followed by a private family burial.


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