In memory of Charlie Cox, OAM

Speech by Richmond Valley Council Mayor Robert Mustow, Wednesday 19 August 2020

 

Thank you Robyn and Charlie’s family for giving Narelle and I the opportunity to be present today and the privilege for me to speak.

It seems like I have known Charlie for a lifetime. He was a teacher when I was a pupil at Casino Public school in the early 60s and in later years taught my daughter Cristie.

I also recall an experience I had with Charlie. In my late teens, before surfboards had leg ropes, if you came off your board and washed onto the beach, between the flags, life savers had great delight impounding your board for the rest of the day.

This happened to me, and Charlie seized my board. About 10 years ago, we were talking old times and having a laugh. I mentioned this to him, he seemed embarrassed, and being the true gentleman he was, he apologised. I told him it was 40 years ago and if it had worried me I would have said something before this.

In 1998 after the tragic death of Mayor Sentil Vasan, Charlie was elected Mayor of Casino Municipal Council, making him the last Mayor of that Council, of which I was a serving councillor.

It was a steep learning curve for him as he was faced with the inevitable amalgamation with the neighbouring Richmond River Shire Council.

  • One of Charlie’s first roles as mayor, which many young ones really thought put Casino on the map, was to officially open Maccas.
  • There were also proposed cuts to the hospital which saw almost 1300 people attend a rally in the hospital grounds, Charlie also delivered 6000 letters of opposition to the cuts to Parliament House in Sydney.
  • He also lobbied the NSW Government for improved police services, which resulted in Casino obtaining a 24-hour service three days a
  • Charlie also signed the documents to formalise the agreements with Casino’s sister city Cassino in

After the amalgamation occurring in 2000, there were challenging times in forming a united, harmonious Council and community. As Mayor Charlie endured unfair criticism by those who opposed and could not accept the amalgamation occurring.

During Charlie’s time as Mayor of Richmond Valley Council, noticeable achievements occurred. Some of these were in the lower river and came at a cost of tens of millions of dollars, that were underground and out of the sight of the public eye, including:

  • The Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome contamination and unexploded ordinance remediation.
  • The Evans Head-Woodburn sewer upgrade, which was demanding as Council had inherited a failing treatment works, which was impacting on the environment and there were calls from the public for a moratorium on development as the treatment plant could not cope.
  • Commencement of planning for sewering Broadwater, which was relying upon septic systems.

Also, during this time:

  • Council resolved to proceed with the construction of the Evans Head Pool complex; and
  • the planning and securing funding for the upgrade of the Casino CBD and the construction of the Casino Community Centre; as well as
  • the opening of Council’s consolidated administration

Today’s citizens are benefiting from the lasting legacy of those decisions made by Council under Charlie’s leadership.

Throughout his 14 years as a councillor, including eight years as mayor, Charlie worked with two general managers, Ross Schipp and Brian Wilkinson. He had a positive and cohesive working relationship with both, as well as a respectful connection with staff which attributed to him being a highly successful mayor.

Sandra and I both had the privilege of being Charlie’s deputy mayor, and we formed a special bond during this time. Even though he had retired as a councillor, Charlie and Robyn continued to support us and handed out for our group at the 2012 and 2016 local government elections.

For those who didn’t know, Charlie was a perfectionist.

  • Earlier on I mentioned Casino’s sister city. As mayor, Charlie led a delegation visit to Cassino, Italy. He spent months learning Italian so he could make his formal speech in their language, which was well received.
  • When attending a local government conference, sitting next to Charlie I put my glasses down with the glass touching the table. Charlie reached out and turned them over. I explained they were only cheapies from the two-dollar shop as I keep my prescription ones at home. It was a rather boring conference, so for a bit of amusement, every time I used my glasses throughout the day, I put them down at least 10 times this way. Charlie wouldn’t say anything, but when I wasn’t looking he would slowly reach out and turn them over. When I realised he wouldn’t give up, I put the glasses in my pocket. He won!
  • Last December, there was a Rappville Christmas party to support the community after what it had The Men’s Shed members were there helping, including Charlie. When the sportsground canteen was opened, it was a mess from the ash from the fires. I started cleaning the benches and thought I was doing a good job. I heard a noise and looked around, Charlie was following a metre behind going over what I had done.
  • And who could forget the wonderful cattle figures he created from corrugated iron for Beef Week – Sir Loin, Lou Lou, Moo Moo, Milly and many others, some of which were “kidnapped” and held for ransom to raise money for the Casino Primary School special education unit.

At the 1988 elections, one of Charlie’s slogans was “I know and understand our community”. Never has a truer word been written. Charlie seemed to know, and remember everyone’s name. If we needed to walk through the main street, say from the Council Chambers to the Civic Hall, I would encourage him to leave half an hour earlier as he would stop and talk to most people. By the time he asked about their children, parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins and friends – who all he knew – we would have to rush so as not to be late for our appointment.

Today we have heard from previous speakers of Charlie’s involvement and achievements in our community:

  • A much-loved teacher
  • Three life memberships of various levels of the Surf Lifesaving Association
  • Life member of the Casino Soccer Association
  • Secretary of Casino Men’s Shed
  • Past chair of Casino Cancer Council Relay for Life
  • Past secretary for Casino Junior Rugby League and coach
  • Past chair of Meals on wheels
  • His ongoing school involvement
  • Mayor, Deputy Mayor, councillor … and the list goes on

He was a son of Casino and the Richmond Valley, who never stopped giving to our community. I am honored to have known him as a mate.

As mayor, Charlie was a strong, selfless leader who has left a lasting legacy of benefit to the Richmond Valley community, which he was engaged with and loved.

He is a great loss, and will be sadly missed.

Narelle and I, Deputy Mayor Steve, Richmond Valley councillors, General Manager Vaughan, Director Angela, and staff extend our deepest sympathy to Robyn, Anthony, Dean and their families.

On behalf of the Richmond Valley residents, I thank Charlie for his service, commitment and contribution to our community during his lifetime.

Rest in Peace dear friend.

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