AND then there were four.
The race for the Northern Tablelands state seat gained further momentum yesterday with the announcement Armidale Dumaresq Council mayor Jim Maher will stand for election as an independent at the May 25 by-election.
He is the second Armidale councillor to indicate his intention to stand.
Herman Beyersdorf announced earlier this month he would stand as the Country Labor candidate.
Mr Maher’s announcement came on the same day former Gunnedah mayor and the National Party’s successful preselection candidate Adam Marshall officially opened his campaign office.
Mr Maher was elected unopposed as the mayor of Armidale last year, after serving on council for eight-and-a-half-years, four of those as the council’s deputy mayor.
He said yesterday the decision to stand had followed some strong encouragement from people across the Northern Tablelands electorate.
“I believe the people of Northern Tablelands are looking for a strong independent candidate to contest the seat against the major parties,” he said.
Mr Maher said he believed his personal qualities and credentials made him the right candidate.
“I have taken time to consider this decision and believe I have made the right choice,” he said.
Mr Maher said he was standing “to fill a huge vacuum left by the resignation of Richard Torbay”.
“I believe I have the credentials, experience, energy and drive to represent the people of Northern Tablelands to the best of my ability,” he said.
“Having lived and worked on the Northern Tablelands for most of my adult life and raised a family, I have a deep understanding of Tablelands communities and their needs.”
The list of Mr Maher’s contributions to the Armidale community span more than three decades.
Over time he has served the New England Area Health Service Board and been a part of major improvements to health facilities and services at Armidale, Inverell, Uralla, Guyra, Tenterfield and Emmaville.
He acted as a director of the NSW Health Services Association from 1996-2000 and chaired its education committee.
A past president of the Rotary Club of Armidale, both Mr Maher and his wife, Nina, were made Paul Harris Fellows, Rotary’s highest honour, for their work in building a library and Lifelong Learning Centre in a small village in rural Thailand.
A rugby league enthusiast, Mr Maher has held executive positions on a number of community and sporting organisations and was responsible for resurrecting junior rugby league in Armidale when it folded in 2005.
Mr Maher holds a PhD in political science from the University of Calgary in Canada, where he specialised in comparative federalism and health policy.
Mr Maher has two young children and an older son who is employed as a teacher in another part of the electorate.
In addition to health and education, Mr Maher said he was particularly interested in local government reform, regional development, sustainable growth, improving transport infrastructure and services, Aboriginal affairs and representing the people of the electorate.”
“Northern Tablelands and indeed New England has a long history of returning independents and I believe I have a strong chance of continuing that tradition,” he said.
Other candidates to indicate they will stand for election in the by-election include: Dora Koops, Greens; Adam Marshall, Nationals; and Herman Beyersdorf, Country Labor.