ONE thing is for certain Fred Harvison is looking forward to meeting his friends for coffee without looking over his shoulder to see who is watching him.
Divisions among the councillors resulted earlier this year in Fred and other councillors, who were meeting at Worn-Out-Wares for a coffee, being watched by a private investigator who was employed by the spouse of another councillor.
After 13 years as a member of Singleton Council one of the drawbacks of the public position is having your every move scrutinised.
The uproar over his so called “coffee club” meetings with fellow council members is something he now readily laughs about.
His advice to the new council is forget about conspiracy theories they do not exist.
“Councillors should seek advice from the staff and ask questions,” he said.
“They should also realise council staff are professionals and they do not lie or mislead you.
“And everyone should work together to get things done for this community.”
The schism that emerged in the council during the last few years, according to Fred, was the result of the politics of personality.
“Councillors rightly or wrongly bowed to the minority view,” he said.
“And this lack of cohesion among the 12 councillors resulted in projects never being able to be passed or taking forever to pass council.”
With a multimillion dollar budget and assets worth half a billion Fred said councillors had to act professionally at all times and discuss things to get things done properly.
Fred joined council in 1999 having arrived in Singleton in1997 and purchased the local Video Ezy franchise.
His brother Quinton Harvison a well known dentist advised Fred to come and join his family in Singleton.
“In a way thanks to my brother I joined a number of local community groups and thus began my career in local government,” he said.
Fred went on to be mayor from 2002-2008 and he said his number one aim during that period was promoting Singleton.
The projects he was most proud of included Singleton being awarded national Triple J concert “Splendor Comes to You”, a free youth concert that attracted an audience of 15,000.
“This concert clearly showed how a local community could pull together and get something done and done quickly,” he said.
“We heard Singleton was awarded the concert two weeks before it was to take place.
“Everyone pulled together and it was a great event.”
Other highlights include the opening of the youth venue, new library, significant drainage works in the older part of Singleton, land subdivisions and the visitor information centre.
Fred plans to stay in Singleton for the forseeable future and dismissed social media chatter that claimed he no longer lives in Singleton.
Singleton, and his great mates here, are vital to him and this was clearly shown back in 2010 when he suffered a mental breakdown.
A platoon commander in the Vietnam War as a member of the 8th Battalion, Fred said he was diagnosed as suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and depression.
“It took 40 years to catch up with me but like many typical Aussie males you think it will never happen to you, but it does,” he said.
“Probably before my mental health crash during the past 10 to 15 years I was fighting the illness saying I was strong enough not to succumb.
“But in the end I had to seek help.”
He paid tribute to his local doctor Dr Pauley and his Newcastle based psychiatrist Hew Raggatt.
But the illnesss took its toll and forced him to sell his video store and take up early retirement.
But one of the most important aspects of his recovery was the support from his family and what he described as his Singleton “blood brothers”.
With no council meetings to attend Fred is being quickly booked by his children living in Queensland, Sydney and Melbourne to babysit his grandchildren.
Today he flies to Queensland to take up his first babysitting duties.
He said he will miss the intellectual challenges of council and the camaraderie.
“I absoluetly enjoyed my 13 years on council and I have no regrets, “ he said
He hopes to continue to work on local community projects and enjoy his coffee.