MARK Irwin is swapping a Mercedes Benz for his Toyota LandCruiser in one of his first acts at Stirling mayor.
The new mayor, who was voted in by councillors last Tuesday, has opted to retain his personal vehicle rather than take possession of the $65,000 Mercedes purchased by the City for mayoral use in 2015.
“I think the community has spoken and I think perceptions are reality and I think they need to know that I’m a normal person who represents the views of the ratepayers,” Cr Irwin said.
He hoped to “clear the air” regarding the purchase that has dogged the City and the car will be sold at auction.
The decision to run for mayor was made by Mr Irwin just half an hour before the meeting.
“I think before that there were some other candidates and… when the playing field changed I wasn’t necessarily comfortable with the alternatives so I thought it was worthwhile putting forward another alternative,” he said.
“I was really hoping that most councillors would vote on who they thought who could influence the council to bring about the cultural change and to bring about the outcomes that I think the community expected.”
He has replaced Cr Giovanni Italiano, who had sought re-election, and said they had spoken since and there was no animosity between them.
Mr Irwin and his wife Elise ran Selby Health and Fitness in Osborne Park for 21 years until it closed unexpectedly in February.
Consumer Protection is investigating and trying to resolve 77 complaints from members claiming more than $13,000 in refunds.
Mr Irwin denied he was bankrupt and said they were negotiating with the landlord for an outcome.
“It’s been a tough year for us and we can’t know what the outcome is yet but we’re certainly working towards trying to resolve it,” he said.
“You can be a successful businessperson for 20 years but then the downturn of the economy and increasing costs all of a sudden things can go really bad.”
He empathised with other small businesses and believed the gym was a victim of higher rents and the economic downturn.
Whether the next mayoral vote will be decided by Stirling councillors is still to be considered by council following the referendum, where more than 70 per cent of voters wanted to choose the mayor themselves.
Mr Irwin supported the “status quo” but said the referendum result would influence his view.
The Scarborough resident and father of three has been involved with surf lifesaving clubs since he was nine and will maintain his position as club development co-ordinator for Surf Life Saving WA but reduce his hours.
Despite being “shell shocked” by the mayoral appointment, Mr Irwin was excited for the challenge.
“I really think I have the ability and the leadership qualities the City ends at the moment to lead an amazing organisation,” he said.
“I am honest, people won’t always agree with my decisions and they won’t agree what I do but I won’t get caught out telling lies, I will tell them exactly how it is, I know exactly what I stand for and I believe that’s honesty and integrity and a vision for a better City of Stirling at all times.”