By Ian Williams
Like many people his age, 23-year-old electrician Robert Schmitz has just quit work for a 12 month break – but that’s where the comparison ends.
Robert won’t be packing his rucksack for a dream world trip, instead he’ll be campaigning for the future of his beloved Whyalla.
Two years ago he became the youngest person ever to be elected a councillor in Whyalla and now he’s running for mayor. And if passion and commitment are any measure, he could well succeed.
“I’ve been planning this break for quite a while now – it’s an opportunity for me to focus on Whyalla and my own personal development and what’s next for me,” he says.
“My intention was never to be an electrician forever, but it’s given me security so that I can go out and chase my dreams.”
Even if Robert doesn’t succeed when the mayoral ballot is decided on August 8 – he’s up against six other candidates – he plans to devote his time as a full-time councillor.
“Personally I think being a councillor is a full-time role, to be out there and active, representing small businesses and the community to get their views,” he says.
And, if he’s elected mayor, Robert’s plan is to “step aside from the traditional model”.
“I want to really portray Whyalla to the State and the region as a city that’s open for business – a city that’s striving for the future and looking for change,” he says.
“At the end of the day I think Whyalla will win – we just have to keep on pushing it.”
Robert gained a taste for local politics after a business colleague introduced him to the Whyalla Residents and Ratepayers Association. It inspired him to run as a councillor and he discovered a real passion for the role.
But, does he ever let his hair down and behave like the average twenty-something-year-old? There’s a short pause before he answers.
“I’m going to have to say ‘no’… I do really give it a try but, for some reason, it never works out – I always end up talking about the council or politics and where we’re heading,” he laughs.
For the same reason he intends to stay single for the immediate future.
“I think I’d make a terrible partner at this point in my life. I leave the house in the morning and probably don’t get home until 11 or 12 on some nights with the number of meetings we’ve had in recent times.
“It’s definitely not a lifestyle that would be very kind to a partner, but it will come in due time.”
And he’s also not ruling out a future in State or Federal politics.
“I’m certainly interested. At the moment I’m focusing on Whyalla, but I’m a strong believer in following whatever doors open.”
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