Faces of Tamworth: businessman and council stalwart Warren Woodley

THE Woodley name is synonymous with Tamworth. 

Not only is he part of the fourth-generation family business that welcomes visitors as they drive into the city, but he is Tamworth’s longest-serving councillor, giving nearly four decades of his life to local government.

Warren was born in Tamworth in 1937, attending Tamworth Public School and Tamworth High School before dropping out at the age of 15 to work at the family business. 

That business was Woodleys Car Trimmers and Upholstery, which his grandfather Henry had started in 1919. 

“I used to visit Dad’s work a lot,” Warren said.

“Then one day Dad said to me, ‘Why don’t you come work down here, tidy up the workshop and put the tools away?’

“I was going to be a builder, but after a while I thought this was as good as anything.”

Warren started his car trimming apprenticeship in 1953, earning just three pounds and five shillings a week.

“Being a trimmer is quite an art,” he said.

“After my five-year apprenticeship, we started spray painting and panel beating and got into a lot of the safety measures.”

In 1970, Warren started selling cars.

He wrote to Volvo headquarters, saying: “I feel your car is safe enough, I’d like to take it on” – and that was his first of many franchises.

Warren was just 19 when he took over the family business.

He sold 12 Volvos in the first year, 48 in the second and 80 in the third. 

The business then started to focus on safety, and was the first place in the North West to fit baby seats into cars.

The business, now known as Woodleys Motors, has gone from strength to strength, growing from six staff to 120 staff.

“As a boy, I could just always see opportunities sticking out everywhere in the car trade,” Warren said.

“I’ve always been a great one at delegation.”

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Warren met his now-wife Lorraine when he was 15. 

“Everything about her was just beautiful,” he said.

They married in 1961 in Tamworth and had two daughters and a son.

COUNCIL STALWART

Another of Warren’s great loves has been local government.

His 39 year-stint in local government public service started when he was the youngest alderman elected in NSW at the age of 26.

Warren first served on Tamworth City Council from 1966 to 1968, a three-year term in those days. 

Warren’s second term of civic office commenced with his election in 1980 and he served continuously for 36 years until 2016, making him Tamworth’s longest-serving councillor.

During that time, he served as deputy mayor for five years 1995/1996 to 1999/2000 and one year as Tamworth’s 36th mayor in 2000/2001.

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Warren also represented council and the community as an external appointment on a number of state-based organisations, including the Saleyards Operators’ Association of NSW, NSW Fluoridation Committee, Police Citizens Youth Club and the Tamworth Correctional Centre Community Consultative Committee.

Focus areas for Warren over his leadership terms was better housing for indigenous residents, training and apprenticeship employment opportunities for young people, water infrastructure and flood levee works.

In 1980, in his capacity as Chairman of the Law and Order Committee he was able to work very effectively in campaigning against domestic violence and drug and alcohol related problems in the community. 

He personally founded the Forum for the Prevention of Drug Abuse and became President of the National body Australian Cities Against Drugs. 

Warren was a passionate and strong advocate for the cause of actively raising public awareness of the negative impacts of drugs on people lives.

Warren as Deputy Mayor and Chairman of the Abattoir Committee was instrumental in achieving positive outcomes in the transfer of Council’s abattoir from public to private ownership, including the relocation from Forest Road to the Glen Artney industrial zone.

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Warren’s enduring commitment for the city was recognized by the business community and in 2011 was presented with the prestigious Noel Park Award. 

He was also awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 2002, for service to local government in Tamworth and his work through Australian Cities Against Drugs.

Warren was this year one of two recipients of the Freemen of the City of Tamworth.

He is most proud of the town planning he helped shape during his time on council, pointing to the development of Taminda as a highlight.

Warren has always, and will always, call Tamworth home.

"It’s just where it is,” he said.

“My people are Nundle gold-mining people, Lorraine’s family are Boggabri farmers, and Tamworth is in the middle of all that.

“It’s always been going places.

“There was just so much opportunity here, and still is.”

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