Former Mayor remembers when it was time to say: no more, calm down!

 

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

She is a cancer patient in the Otway Health clinic at Apollo Bay, Victoria, but her heart and mind often drift to Alice Springs, whose Mayor she was for nine years, elected to follow George Smith in 1983 and re-elected twice but lost her third bid in 1992.
In all Leslie Oldfield served on the town council for 15 years.
Her surname became Huggins when she married Alan in 1993, at the Old Timers.
Although she left town almost 20 years ago she keeps in touch, and is a little bemused and worried about the current poisonous atmosphere in local government.
There were many disagreements at council meetings in her time, but “it used to be a friendly thing.
“We’d bicker and then shake hands.”
One of the perks of being a council roundsman was to have a few drinks with the “elected members” after the meetings – quite a few at times, as I fondly remember.
“Now it sounds like big time politics,” says Mrs Huggins.
“It hurts people but it’s getting you nowhere.”
She knew well where to draw the line: “Aldermen try to manipulate you at times.
“You let them go on for a while.
“But then you have to have a strong hand when the time comes to say ‘no more, calm down.
“We’ll talk about this like proper adults.”
Her charm and diplomatic skills served her well: “With all the factions in town you always need to read between the lines.”
Mrs Huggins has great memories of her public life: “I did enjoy what I was doing. As long as you enjoy the job you can put up with almost anything.”
Mrs Huggins says she supports sitting Mayor Damien Ryan: “He has the time and money to put behind it. I support his bid.”
And she says Dianne Logan would also make a good Mayor, after a term or two as a councillor.
About her illness Ms Huggins is quietly philosophical: “That’s what life is throwing at you. Make the most of it. Make a good life.”
Her friend and fundraiser for the centre, Katrina Kiely, says Mrs Huggins has an aggressive strain of inoperable cancer.
But tomorrow she will have her hair shaved to raise funds for a children’s charity, the Leukaemia Foundation.
“I don’t have much hair left but they can take the rest,” she says.
Her strong spirit has not deserted her. And neither has her sense of humor.

PHOTOS: Mayor Oldfield and her town; with husband Alan.

 

UPDATE: Leslie Huggins (formerly Oldfield) and husband Alan, inspired by her courage, have gone under the razor for the World’s Greatest Shave Day. In their small community $3000 was raised for the Leukaemia Foundation. Mrs Huggins received a surprise call on the day from Kamahl, wishing her all the best.

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7 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Daryl Gray
    Posted March 22, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    Leslie, you earned the right to say whatever you like about Alice Springs, as you gave your all for everyone during your time in the region, and did it with grace and compassion. You set the bar high. God Bless you and Alan.

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  2. Bob Liddle
    Posted March 22, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    I am sad to hear of Leslie Oldfield’s situation, during the two terms on Council that I served with her I believe the Council performed well. I do wish her well in her current journey. The town of Alice is in a downward spiral brought about by bad policies and weak leadership. Aboriginal social and political systems of the past that provided and sustained a measure of stability have been eroded by institutions that have failed miserably. True, Aboriginal people have the right to enjoy all the fundamental things that are part of our great democracy. But alcohol has been a most destructive element in this failing community.

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  3. Kathy Fritz
    Posted March 17, 2012 at 9:05 am

    As Australians we are all entitled to our point of view, and if Leslie Oldfield wishes to voice her opinions so be it. There is too much bitching and politically correct, instead of helping get the job done.
    Good luck Leslie.
    From your past residents.
    Kathy

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  4. Janet Brown
    Posted March 17, 2012 at 7:49 am

    I listened to the interview on ABC and I know personal dilemma when dealing with cancer. I am a survivor of the disease. What I was not happy with was the guided use of a cancer patient into the Mayoral race in Alice Springs. Leslie’s views on Damian and her support push on radio for him was disgusting. I admire her desire to assist children’s cancer research. But to support a particular person in a town she no longer lives in and misleads the people of Alice to what the role of Mayor is after we have a current Mayor in Port Augusta. Who has changed the face of that town through as in her words “having the guts to make and stick to the hard decisions”. To serve the majority and ignore the minority till the job was done. She did not stick to pomp and ceremony.She got in and got the town functioning. A Mayor with guts is what we need not a story book character with no substance. Leslie I wish you the best on your journey and I am disgusted that media used you to push a political labor party base ideology.

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  5. Mike Gillam
    Posted March 16, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    I remember Leslie as a mayor of the people. Her leadership style was heartfelt, inclusive and courageous when it needed to be. She endured a great deal of flak from vested interests and never failed to act in what she saw as the best interests of the community. All the best to her and husband Alan.

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  6. Terry
    Posted March 16, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    Like the Ex Mayor, I left The Alice in the early eighties, and I keep in touch with the goings on in the town by the good graces of the online Alice News. It breaks my heart that The Alice I so loved and enjoyed being a part of is being torn apart by political correctness and mismanagement by both the Local and the Federal governments. I fear that The Alice of my time is long gone, never to return, and there are those in authority right now that should bow their heads in shame.

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  7. Posted March 15, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    To Erwin and Kieran,
    Thanks so much for all that you have offered The Alice in the time we (collectively) have been here (about the same period – from 1993-94 until the present).
    It’s great that your editions are on-line now and that you can build the stories over time. The coverage and perspectives of issues impacting on our town are invaluable … especially when one can “track back” and place the events into context. It’s a fine read.
    I’ll be happy to promote my political campaign to join the NT Legislative Assembly in August this year through Alice Springs News as time and opportunity permits. Our former Mayor, Leslie Oldfied, was here well before we were but her spirit and tenacity live on in the town her people!
    Thanks again for being here.
    Warm regards, Phil.
    [ED – Phil, it’s a pleasure and a privilege. There’s lots more where this came from! All the best, Erwin & Kieran]

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