Former Yarriambiack Shire councillor Helen Ballentine is encouraging residents to consider running at October's local government elections, after calling time on a fruitful decade and a half in the public service.
On Wednesday, she attended her last council meeting, after 15 years with the municipality, including a stint as mayor in 2009.
"Thirteen years of travelling to monthly meetings to different shires and towns gives you a true perspective of the region, and it's encouraged me to want to promote it more. I've come to see the beautiful region it is," she said.
In this endeavour it is safe to say she has had much success: As a founding member of Wimmera-Mallee Tourism, Mrs Ballentine has been involved with the group during the genesis of the Silo Art Trail in the Yarriambiack Shire and surrounds, and the growth of Dimboola's Pink Lake and Lake Tyrell, in Buloke Shire Council, as international tourist destinations.
In addition to council, Mrs Ballentine has served on the board of the re-established Victorian Rural Women's Network, chaired the committee for the 2016 Hopetoun Women on Farms gathering, and been part of Municipal Association of Victoria, the Wimmera Development Association and GWM Water's Regional Recreation Water Users Group.
Before council, she briefly worked as a social worker at the Department of Human Services in Horsham, and the first rural health and welfare worker in the shire.
Mrs Ballentine said in leaving the Council, one of her ongoing concerns was the shire's declining population.
"I would like to see more people come into the region," she said.
"People might be encouraged to work from home... and access the NBN we have here. I do think information technology is the second factor that is going to grow in our region, besides agriculture."
Helen lives on a fifth-generation family farm near Hopetoun with her husband Leigh. She has two children, Dustin and Zoe, while her other son Sam sadly died in April last year.
"It was a sudden death - we are still waiting on the coroner," she said. "He was a proud farmer, he farmed for 25 years.
"The grief has made it difficult for me to manage both personal and public duties. I had been given the privilege of some leave, but then I felt I needed some more, and if I'm going to be involved in something I need to be committed 100 per cent, so i decided it would be a good idea to resign now and give my community some time to encourage someone else to stand."
READ MORE: Postal votes at 2020 council elections
Yarriambiack Shire Council will be represented by six councillors - one from Hopetoun, three from Warracknabeal and two from the Dunmunkle ward - for its remaining meetings before the elections. Ms Ballentine thanked the ratepayers that had voted for and supported her across her time on the Council.
"I would encourage people to run this October," she said. "Being on council has given me a great life.
"If you're going to be a councillor, the training that is offered is very important, because there is a lot of law, rules and regulations you need to know about. Professional development is also important."
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