Being an only child was the catalyst for Margret Bell to “step up” and in doing so decades later was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for service to the community of Camden.

Ms Bell, who has had friends recognised with Australia Day honours, and “deservedly so” never expected she would be one of them.

But, she was jolted into reality when she received a letter in the mailbox listing all her achievements – it hit home that had accomplished a lot.

“I look at my life like that [and] I thought, ‘My God’ you just go through life [without adding up what you have done].”

She said it’s not something that you think about until it’s in black and white in front of you.

“All my life I have had to make that step up. To find your friends or to make your family when you are the only one.”

Her mother and father moved interstate when she was newly married.

“I was really on my own with my husband (ex-husband) then and it was only us.”

Ms Bell always liked meeting people and once her own family came along (two children) she had an opportunity to expand her circle of friends, some of whom are now life-long friends through volunteering.

When her children, who are in their 40s, were younger she had plenty of time, but even continued to help out in different sporting groups and organisations when she returned to fulltime work.

She conceded that volunteering has changed now and it’s more difficult to get people involved.

She said there is an enjoyment about volunteering and participating.

“It gives you a greater respect and a greater support; there’s nothing better than to put yourself forward a bit to do things that are not necessarily paid or great hallelujah moments…be involved.”

Ms Bell moved to Camden local government area in 1980 and fell in love in the area that she has served – Macarthur Preschool, Falcons Soccer Club, Camden Sub-Branch, Returned and Services League of Australia and being awarded Woman of the Year, Camden Region, NSW Government, 2016.

And then there’s also the things in between that Ms Bell just does because it’s “what you do”.

Ms Bell retired from the community based preschool in 2021 and had hoped to have been busier, but covid had other ideas.

Ms Bell is still in demand being asked to work for other organisations and she still has the energy and enthusiasm.

The time that she has been away from outside volunteering has been used at home supporting other projects.

“I am quite involved with the veterans because my husband (second marriage) is a Vietnam veteran,” she said.

“We have a lot of friends who are veterans and men who are not married, divorced or widowers. I have a big involvement with them.”

Ms Bell has provided accommodation in her home to some of the veterans because of their circumstances, and she is pleased that she could help out.

“It’s been great to do…now that I am retired I can help support them.”

She said her current volunteering has been able to be done with covid around.

Ms Bell’s husband, who had been diagnosed with COVID-19, will have finished his isolation to celebrate with his wife on Australia Day.

In what was an expected outcome for the Wollondilly deputy mayor role, Matthew Deeth, secured seven of the nine votes for the coveted second top job for the elected term, voted at an extraordinary council meeting on January 18.

Cr Deeth will once again team up with the newly popularly elected mayor, councillor Matt Gould. In the last term of council for a period, Cr Deeth was mayor with Cr Gould as deputy mayor. It was a pairing that worked for both councillors. There was an expectation that the role would have been given to the mayoral candidate that received the second highest count, Judith Hannan. Cr Deeth was fourth placed in the mayoral count.

The mayor moved that the position of deputy mayor be for the complete term of council before an open ballot was held. Crs Deeth and Judith Hannan both put their hands up for the position and spoke about their suitability.

Cr Deeth highlighted the challenges to the shire, “none more so than growth” adding that in the last five years work had been done to manage the impacts.

He said a united team of councillors was needed to get the results, rather than what the “external forces” wanted.

“We have an opportunity here to work collectively and collaboratively in achieving a vision to aspire in what the community wants.”

Cr Deeth said advocacy was the key and was about establishing “relationships…to get an outcome”.

He also took the opportunity to throw out any suggestion that he is part of any political party, but he did stress the importance to engage with all political parties.

“I will continue to advocate for all our community with all parties and or anyone that is willing to listen to me and to all of us, to ensure we get the best possible outcome for our community.”

Cr Hannan who secured the second highest votes for popularly elected mayor, conceded there is “no prize for second place” was motivated to put up her hand for integrity’s sake. She was disappointed that a councillor, who wanted to run for deputy mayor and who she would have voted for, was “talked out” of running.

She believed party politics exists [in council].

“Some say voting for deputy mayor is not mayor, but I believe it’s about leadership…”

“I do believe there is party politics and anybody who says there’s not when councillors or candidates are offered backing and resources… are up in the clouds.”

Cr Hannan said she would abide by the councillors decision and believed they all needed to work as a team “not to have just a mayor and deputy mayor”.

“We are an entire team, not one or two people. I have to consistently stand for my community… what I believe is [that] each and every one of us have our roles.”

Cr Hannan wasn’t optimistic about the result, but was prepared to work with each of the councillors and said she “will only be answerable to the community I represent”.

Crs Deeth, Gould, Blair Briggs, Paul Rogers, Suzy Brandstater, Hilton Gibbs and Michael Banasik voted for Cr Deeth

Crs Judy Hannan and Bev Spearpoint for Cr Hannan.

Cr Briggs confirmed to The District Reporter he had wanted to run for deputy mayor, but when informed of the responsibility of the role – pulled-out.

In the lead-up to the December 2021 local council election, Wollondilly Liberal state MP, Nathaniel Smith, endorsed Matt Deeth for mayor.

Camden Liberal councillor, Therese Fedeli has been returned as mayor and joining her as deputy will be Labor councillor, Paul Farrow.

A council meeting was held tonight (January 10) to vote on for the top job which had two contenders, Cr Fedeli and Cr Eva Campbell. The vote was conducted by a show of hands as some councillors were unable to attend in person.

Cr Campbell an independent, had two votes that included her own and that of new councillor Peter Mclean, also an independent. Cr Fedeli had the support of Liberal councillors Lara Symkowiak, Usha Dommaraju, Russell Zammit and Labor councillors Paul Farrow, Cindy Cagney and Ashleigh Cagney. Cr Fedeli secured the position 7-2.

Crs Farrow and McLean both nominated for the deputy mayor position. Cr Farrow won 7-2.