Port Augusta mayor Sam Johnson has been re-elected in what has been described a landslide win in local government elections.
The 28-year-old commercial banker took out the mayoral election convincingly over the weekend, sitting more than 1,500 votes ahead of both of his opponents.
Following a long six weeks of campaigning in what was expected to be a tightly-fought election, Mr Johnson described the feeling of being re-elected as “overwhelming” and “exciting”.
He said going up against two respected and well-known challengers had his confidence wavering, even up until the last day.
“You’re facing two relatively strong people; one very experienced and one very renowned local, so you never guess where things are going to end up, so to speak,” he said.
“To win by that much was not expected.”
After originally claiming the top spot in a by-election last year when the then mayor, the famous and much-loved Joy Baluch, passed away, Mr Johnson had enormous shoes to fill.
He admitted following in the footsteps of the iconic, 30-year-long mayor was a huge challenge; but one he faced with gusto and determination.
“I’ve never ever tried to be Joy - you can’t be someone you’re not...but you are automatically walking into a position that has the spotlight on it, because she’s such a well-renowned character and individual,” Mr Johnson said.
“I knew I had to work hard and pedal fast, because I knew there were a lot of people out there that were waiting for a failure.”
Reflecting on the past 14 months, he said the highlight has been rebuilding and promoting the Port Augusta brand both within the city and on a regional and state level.
“I look at Port Augusta as a brand, it’s a product that we’re offering, it’s a lifestyle we’re offering, and it’s always been my intention to build that in a proactive, positive light,” he explained.
“We’ve made good inroads...when you talk to people at respectable levels in state government and even federal government, Port Augusta’s renowned for the right reasons.”
Looking ahead, his vision for the next four years is to bring council’s focus back to basics, while keeping a watchful eye on the “big ticket” projects across town.
“It will be nice to go back to basics of doing up the parks, the playgrounds, the footpaths, and just doing those nice simple projects that everyone gets to touch, see and feel,” he said.
Further, he said he intends to push for “game-changing” private investment in larger-scale projects, such as a retail complex, marina development and growth in small business in the city.
Despite a convincing win, Mr Johnson said there’s huge room for improvement both in his role and in council as an organisation, and he hopes to tackle this through input and communication from the Port Augusta community.
“I acknowledge that there’s still a bunch of people out there who didn’t vote in my direction, so I still take their views on board as well and try and understand over the next four years what it is they want to do differently,” he said.
“Ever since I’ve come into this role, I’ve kept my office door open.
“If you have heard something, or you know something, or you want to give some constructive feedback or you want to give me an idea or input, do it - by email, by phone, by Facebook.”
Mr Johnson wished to thank the other candidates, the Port Augusta community, his fellow council staff and especially his wife Bianca who has been by his side from the beginning.
“You’ve got to thank your opponents because they keep you honest and on the job - so I do thank them and wish them the best,” he said.
“I’d like to thank the people of Port Augusta; the support I’ve taken, not just through this election but through the eight years in local government has been fantastic.
“I think we’re going to achieve some fantastic things in the next four years.”