"He was a good councillor, a great man. This is a really sad loss for everyone."
Northern Grampians Shire Council mayor Tony Driscoll, a man passionate about his community, passed away on July 31.
Councillor Driscoll served Northern Grampians Shire Council since October 2012 and represented the Kara Kara Ward. He had previously held the role of mayor in 2016-17 and 2017-18 and was once again voted in on November 2021. After a short but courageous battle with cancer, Mr Driscoll left behind a legacy of more than 10 years on council and played an active role until his death. The shire is mourning the loss of its mayor - a man who has been described as a hard-working community man, a 'great mate' and not just a councillor.
Friend, and fellow councillor, Murray Emerson said the passing of Cr Driscoll deeply saddened him.
"I class Tony as one of my mates," he said. "We came together as councillors about 10-11 years ago. We didn't know each other before then. It was very easy to get to know Tony and become mates with him - something I am very privileged to say that I was."
Cr Emerson said in the past decade he worked with Cr Driscoll on significant projects across the shire, including the Grampians Peak Trail and Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory, to name a few.
"Some of the successes on those major projects were due to the work Tony Driscoll did in relation to them," he said. "Tony and I supported each other through some difficult times our shire faced. I got good support from all my councillors, but Tony, in particular, supported me through the COVID pandemic when I was mayor. I hope, I supported him the same, in the difficulties he had to endure during his mayoral terms as well."
Cr Emerson said it was hard to find people like Cr Driscoll in communities - someone willing to give so much time and dedication and a passion for getting the job done.
"Cr Driscoll was on council for all the right reasons," he said. "In local government, it can be hard to find people who are there for the right reasons - but the late Tony Driscoll and I shared the same vision of being on the council to do the best we could for the community. That was it, nothing else."
Cr Kevin Erwin had been on council for about 10 years before Cr Driscoll joined.
Cr Erwin said he knew of Cr Driscoll before becoming a councillor, but the two became 'good friends' over the years.
"He was a good councillor, very easy to get along with and a man of real integrity," he said. "I had met him in a shearing shed one day before he became a councillor and got to know him well. He was a good councillor, a great man. This is a really sad loss for everyone."
Cr Driscoll led the shire during times that were full of uncertainty for the region, including when the Stawell Gold Mine suspended underground operations in 2016. He workshopped the situation, which left 150 without a job, just before Christmas.
"We look at the enormity and say 150 jobs, but if you break it down to five or 10 jobs here, another 15 jobs here and all of a sudden the problem does not look as big," Cr Driscoll said at the time. "We cannot promise 150 jobs at once but one bite at a time we will fix the problem and that is what we are trying to assure our people."
It was times such as this, and when St Arnaud experienced heaving flooding when Cr Driscoll's leadership stood out the most to Cr Erwin.
"He would do anything he could to help the community," Cr Erwin said. "He was a great community person as well as being a councillor. He advocated strongly for anyone in that kind of situation. He was always very calm about the way he went about everything."
Cr Erwin said Cr Driscoll was proud of many projects across the shire.
"We worked together to get the funding for Lord Nelson Park which I know Tony was really proud to provide the much-needed upgrades and facilities to the St Arnaud community," he said. "Tony put in a lot of work supporting and working with Gilmac. He was very proud of that. He was also very passionate about Walker's Lake."
Cr Driscoll will also be remembered for serving his community as a councillor and mayor and as an advocate for local government.
When re-elected as mayor in 2017, Cr Driscoll said there was still plenty to do to ensure a more viable future for the Northern Grampians Shire.
"He always had some funny one-liners that I will remember forever," he said. "He was a good person and thought of very highly in the community. You always got a straight answer from Tony. He had a serious side but enjoyed a bit of fun."
Cr Driscoll is survived by his wife Annette, two sons, two daughters and his grandchildren.
A wave of tributes and condolences has rolled in for Cr Driscoll from politicians and neighbouring shires alongside Northern Grampians Shire chief executive Liana Thompson.
Ms Thompson said Cr Tony Driscoll was an absolute joy to work with.
"Smart, measured, funny and a totally committed elected representative," she said. "And as Mayor, we worked closely together, he always gave me great advice and guidance, he always supported and cared for me as a person, for which I am so grateful.
"Family was everything to Tony and our NGSC family are feeling a huge gap with him gone.
"Vale Mayor Cr Tony Driscoll."
Mallee Nationals MP Anne Webster said she was deeply saddened to hear of Cr Driscoll's death.
"Cr Driscoll was a dedicated and kind man who gave himself in service to his community to make Northern Grampians a thriving place to live and work," Dr Webster said. "He was a strong advocate for local projects, namely Lord Nelson Park, and worked hard to ensure that local roads and community infrastructure projects were secured and delivered in the region."
Lowan member and the Nationals deputy leader Emma Kealy extended her heartfelt condolences to Cr Driscoll's family and his colleagues at Northern Grampians Shire Council.
"Cr Driscoll served on council for 10 years, and always represented his community with honesty, loyalty and a steadfast dedication to making our community a wonderful place to live and work," she said.
"He was passionate about growing opportunities for the people of Northern Grampians Shire and played a vital role in securing funding for many key projects during his years of service, including the Grampians Community Power Hub, the redevelopment of Lord Nelson Park in St Arnaud, and the recently-announced multi-million-dollar expansion of Frew Foods International in Stawell.
"His passing is a huge loss for our region, and his contributions will leave an indelible mark on our community for many years to come."
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