Ray Thompson was re elected as Lithgow Mayor for at least another 12 months this week.
Councillor Thompson and Councillor Cassandra Coleman were the only two nominations for the Mayor's position, with Councillor Thompson returned by a 7-2 majority vote.
Thanks to COVID, the planned local council elections were pushed to September next year by the Minister for Local Government.
In the news:
Mayor Thompson said of his re-election, "My focus in the year ahead will be on jobs - more of them and a broader range. You only need look at the proposed re-purposing of the former Wallerawang Power Station for an example of what can be. This site, when fully developed offers amazing job opportunities," he said.
The Lithgow Mercury caught up with Ray about what he thinks the next 12 months look like for Lithgow and what the future holds for the area.
"Well, I have to say, I think it can be very exciting for Lithgow. I think that what comes out of the repurposing of Wallerawang will be great. You never know - I haven't got a crystal ball, you can't really tell what's just around the corner because COVID of course," he said.
Cr Thompson reflected on the tough year Lithgow and the rest of Australia has had in dealing with COVID-19 and bushfires but said Lithgow has fared quite well all things considered, though it hasn't been immune.
"Well, the thing that's been hit certainly more than anything is the hospitality industry," he said.
If we can get the Great Western Highway fixed up between Lithgow and Katoomba, that's the last link. People would be able to commute to outskirts of Western Sydney to work if need be.Mayor Ray Thompson
"All our other industry has been virtually able to keep firing away. Thales as far as I know has been working full pelt, Ferrero has been going and of course Westfund is a big employer and it's been going as normal.
"The Mount Piper Power Station and the coal mines have all been going as normal - as far as normal can be with COVID. So industry has been able to get through the situation pretty well."
Cr Thompson also said most local accommodation has been snapped up with an outage at Mount Piper which means most or all of the approximately 600 people working out there will be in Lithgow until Christmas.
"In general, I think we haven't done too bad. You know, certainly our hospitality side of things there has been a big problem," he said.
Wallerawang Power Station
Cr Thompson was quick to point out that the key to growth and success for Lithgow in the decades to come is jobs, plain and simple. And with the Wallerawang Power Station site now set to become a thriving industrial park, he believes there's huge potential in the development.
"Well, what makes the area is jobs," he said.
"They [Bettergrow] are very, very keen and I think that they've called for expressions of interest from other industries that may be interested in relocating to Lithgow. And we believe that most probably in the - between five and 10 years or so that could employ 1000 to 2000 people out there. So that's very exciting. It's very exciting for Lithgow.
"And with what's happening at Wallerawang Power Station I can see the land values going up in Lithgow, I think it'll be a great place. In the last census we were virtually stagnant in growth - or very little growth.
"Now we can see that all of a sudden that'll change. And, you know, we might explode with about 4000-5000 new people here in the next few years."
The great western migration
Cr Thompson said he sees a lot of families moving out of the city and heading west to places like Lithgow how are well-suited for a family looking to settle down.
"We are in a position as far as Council is concerned that ... we believe the shift will be towards the west. Lithgow is the first place west over the mountains," he said.
"All electric rail ends here and we're right where the Great Western and Castlereagh Highway merge."
"If we can get the Great Western Highway fixed up between Lithgow and Katoomba, that's the last link. People would be able to commute to outskirts of Western Sydney to work if need be.
"No matter what you've got, you've got to have jobs. At the moment, most of the young people in Lithgow move away to get work, so it'll be great. Some families can stay put, stay together.
"That'll be absolutely wonderful."
What do you think? Send us your thoughts in a letter below.