COLIBAN ward councillor Sebastian Klein is moving on after more than 10 years in the position.
Following a number of letters to newspapers in regards to water and population, he became involved with a number of projects involving Hepburn Shire Council. Through this some of his colleagues suggested he should do a community leadership programs.
"Through that I met a whole range of different people, like the chaplain from the local school and people from corporate and community backgrounds, including people with similar interests around climate change and the environment," he said.
He said a few of the people he encountered encouraged him to run for council.
"I had never really thought about it, and then I stood a bit taller and straighter and thought, 'yes, why don't I?'"
Cr Klein became a councillor at just 24-years-old. and said he was surprised at the way the community rallied behind him from the very beginning.
"Attitudes have shifted over the years to really welcome young people into roles of responsibility and leadership," he said.
Cr Klein said he had always been conscious of the fact that he needed to represent his community first so he could then represent the bigger issues he personally was passionate about.
"By taking very personally the footpaths, the gravel on the road, the potholes, the footy ground - things that are central services here in Australia very seriously - I had the blessing of the community to go ahead and act on the other big issues as well," he said. "It was always important for me to prioritise the community's needs, whatever they were, as much as possible, all the way along."
He said there had always been an underlying focus on protecting the natural world in the shire, but this had escalated in recent years through a number of projects.
"One of the bigger things I'm quite proud of is the Z-Net project. Since we recognised climate change in the council in 2009, it has been a 10 year journey to get it to the point where we have a strategy to address it within the community," he said.
"We have an internal strategy which has reduced our emissions by over 40 per cent and reduced our bills as well, but actually having a broader strategy to help the wider community benefit by tying economic development and bill saving with the environment is important."
He said another project he was proud of was the council's Solar Savers initiative, which sees ratepayers pay back the cost of solar panels through their rates.
There are also a number of smaller projects he is proud of.
"There are lots of little things like the skate park in Trentham, the upgrade of the Lyonville Hall, disability access in community facilities which have really kept me going and make me feel like I'm making a difference."
He also stated he was exceptionally proud that council moved a motion in support of marriage equality. Hepburn was the first council in Australia to do so, followed by the Municipal Association of Victoria and the Local Government Association.
"There was a big part that local government played in changing that conversation and getting the momentum going," he said.
"When I first got to Trentham it reminded me a lot of the little town where I was brought up, with 900 people just north of Albury. It was very much that Country Women's Association, Country Fire Authority and the footy club kind of feeling. There was a lot of sense of the loss of local business, the banks were all gone, it looked like the supermarket was going to shut - it was a real sense of rural decline."
But Cr Klein said that feeling had shifted in the time he had been in Trentham.
"It is booming in terms of property and people moving there for the lifestyle - it has the highest median property ratings in all of Hepburn," he said. "It has grown now and there is a real sense of young families moving in as well as a lot of retirees. This has brought a real fresh sense of energy to the town which is good. Childcare is one of the things we have achieved recently together with the community and I am looking forward to that being established too."
"More than anything being welcomed into the community... Really being let into people's lives and being given a candid impression of what matters to them and being asked to do something about has been one of the most rewarding and inspiring parts of the job over the last 10 years."
He said he hoped the people of Trentham could work together to work on outcomes in future.
"My leaving as a councillor offers a real opportunity for the different opinions in the community to come together and see if there are different ways of working on outcomes. Just because we disagree on something it shouldn't mean we are all held back. The whole point of the democratic process is that different views can work together to get democratic outcomes at their best," he said.
Hopes for future
Cr Klein said one of the things he would really like to see council implement in future was that agricultural land was protected during the process of re-working the Hepburn Planning Scheme.
"Particularly this season we have seen how dry things can be. It is some of the most fertile soil, so where some of the best rainfall in the country occurs," he said.
"So I think both from the point of view of wanting it to feel like the country and wanting it to have that sense of being out in the open breathing fresh air, the waterways being clean and the springs being clean, as well as from the point of view of food security and maintaining rural industries and employment, it's really important we get that balance right by saying there are areas more suitable to houses and others better suited to agriculture."
He would also be pleased to see the creation of the Daylesford to Hanging Rock Rail Trail, moves towards rates equity, a library open five days a week and a front desk for people in Trentham to be able to register their dog or pay their fees.
Cr Klein said his role as councillor over the past decade had changed him as a person.
"Going back to a small town and being welcomed into people's lives led me to take a very different attitude to rural living. As a young person you just want to get out as soon as possible but to get to know people as individuals in a way you can't always in the city has been a real privilege.
"It has been a really fascinating, educating and rewarding experience and I feel it has been because of the willingness of people to volunteer and put in their time to work with me on a variety of issues that has made it really enjoyable."