Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Thomas Alfred Pyne 1935-2011 | A tribute

The Man in the Arena

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

President Theodore Roosevelt

The above quote best describes what Thomas Alfred Pyne meant to me during the years I spent with him on his beloved trend setting Mulgrave Shire Council (1976-1994). They were the best years of my political life and if I were able to look into the recess of his heart, I could confidently say they were also his best public service years.

During my Council years I came across many individuals each one left their own impression. Some reminded me of feather dusters that couldn't even make an impression on a cushion let alone on a civil society, others were like Comets that came from nowhere, were visible for a while, had a tail and left no lasting impression, but there was only one Sun that all things revolved around, and that Sun was Tom Pyne.

When I was first elected in 1976, I had just celebrated my 23rd birthday and Tom Pyne was Deputy to the then Chairman of the Mulgrave Shire Council, Cr. Ken Alley. The period preceding my election had been a tumultuous time, indeed similar to now, where party politics prevailed at the expense of the ratepayer. The Marlin Coast felt particularly aggrieved which lead to my election 1n 1976.

With the retirement in 1979 of Cr Alley, Tom Pyne nominated for Chairman and was elected unopposed. I too had the privilege in 1979 of been elected unopposed in Division 4. There were a number of issues that lead to a professional and personal friendship to develop. The first big issue was where Tom and I harnessed our energies to convince Council not to move the Council Chambers to Burpu, next to the ‘Coral Drive In’ picture theatre. There was much public angst for this move and we spent endless hour trying to convince Council not to do so. In the end we were successful and as a compromise extensions were added to the Council office on the Esplanade.

Political infighting that had featured and destabilised preceding Councils was eradicated through hard work and the respect garnered through Tom's ability to communicate with you and not talk at you and his passion for the job he loved. He transformed a divide Council into a Council that became a trend setter in local government, where public infrastructure particularly on the Marlin Coast kept pace with development. Libraries, swimming pools, sports and recreational centres, public conveniences, esplanade enhancement and many other facilities were built with developer's contributions and from wise managerial decisions. For the record, at the time of 1994 amalagation of the Cairns City Council and the Mulgrave Shire Council in excess of $35 ml was held as cash reserves.

His ALP life membership was put aside the moment he talked Council business. He often recounted how Sir Joh then Premier of Queensland would often call into his modest Edmonton home to pay a courtesy visit and share a cup of tea. In fact I would say he had more support from the National/Liberal Party then his own side of politics. It was ironic that the only election he ever lost was when Mr. Ray Jones member for Cairns retired and Tom nominated for the ALP endorsement for the State seat of Cairns.  Much to my surprise and to the Council, he did not receive the endorsement with the ALP preferring Mr. Keith Delacy who went on to become Queensland Treasurer in the 1989 Goss Government. The ALP's loss became Mulgrave Shire Council gain. He turned adversity into a positive force for the Council he loved and made it a 24 hrs, 7 day a week passion.

I owe what I have learnt politically to the guidance and mentoring of Tom Pyne. He taught me that the residents always came first, that the role of a Councilor was a 24hr commitment and that party politics should play no part in local government. He also taught me that Developers should pay their way and that development should not be at the expense of the ratepayers and  that public infrastructure should keep ahead of population growth. Above all he thought me the art of communication and the need for meaningful public participation without resorting to spin.

His lasting legacy which I hope that the current Cairns Regional Council takes on board is that residents always come first and that party politics should play no part in the decision making process of local government. He never took a holiday in all the years he was on Council and never appeared stressed or overcome with the enormous work load he bore on his broad shoulders. He often said to me he had no need for a holiday ‘cause if you love your job, that in itself was the equivalent of a enduring holiday’.

The last time I chatted with Tom was 2 weeks ago when we discussed the current parlous state of local government affairs at the local level. His concluding remark was that I should stand for Division 9, if only to restore some old fashioned representation. I enjoyed our chats and often we would recount those numerous moments of laughter and fun that the Mulgrave Shire Council was for us.

To Marion, Joann and Rob my heartfelt condolence are extended to you. No doubt at this moment you are consumed with sadness and grief but you have every right to feel proud and thankful for the legacy he leaves behind with the knowledge that whatever he did, he did it from the heart. Thank you, for the uncompromising support you gave Tom and for allowing him to follow his heart and political instinct. Thank you, for standing beside him as he guided Cairns and region through years of sustainable growth.  Finally, thank you Tom for your mentoring and civic nurturing as I am the better for it and you will always remain close to my heart.. 

Ross Parisi
1st November 2011.

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1 comment:

  1. You would probably romp in as the Division 9 Councillor against Sno Bonneau!


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