There's a family here in Yass that's about to head off to find new adventures in another part of the state.
For as long as many of us can remember, Chris McHarg and Sally Rasmussen and their clutch of kids have been mainstays of this community, and of this shire. Chris spent the last four years as a dedicated and hard-working councillor, and a champion of local government.
While roads, rates and rubbish will always be council 'business as usual', Chris brought with him his long-held passion for the fabric and future of the community. Well before Chris' councillor days he and Sally ran their popular drop-in spot in Comur Street where people would come and share concerns and passions about daily life.
A carpenter by trade, Chris immediately set about coming to grips with council planning and state regulations. His aim was to do what he could to promote understanding between tradespeople, owner-builders and the like and the council planning department. Someone described Chris to me as "a helper, a greaser of the wheel".
Chris is proud of educating himself about Aboriginal heritage in the Yass district, right back to before 1820. A real “eye-opener”, he says. He is also justifiably proud of his councillor role in having the Aboriginal Advisory Committee reconvened and the Aboriginal flag flown in town. According to Chris, it's all about the values of respect, pride and understanding.
Arguably the most valuable investment a community can make is in its youth and this is where Chris really found his calling, heading up the Yass Youth Council with his inclusive style, as a mentor and teacher, wanting to make sure youth have a strong voice, a focus and an active role to play. The achievements of the youth council are legend: the skate park upgrade, art exhibitions, park furniture refurbishment, Classic Yass events, film nights at the pool, to name a few. In true character, Chris made special mention of the wonderful assistance from council staff and the inspirational qualities of youth leaders.
Chris reflected on the great things about Yass and its country town quality of life. When asked what the highlights are, he replied it's the simple traditional things that gather people together as a community: sport facilities, like the swimming pool, golf course and bowling club; heritage, enshrined in the well-maintained parks, river walks and 100-year-old trees; learning through the local library; prosperity and commerce through small businesses, the local market and craft co-op; enterprise through Lions, Rotary and the many other local service clubs; care and support from the "fantastic staff" at the local hospital.
The challenge is to preserve these irreplaceable qualities while updating services to keep up with community growth.
Chris and Sally and family, take care and keep in touch - we'll miss you.