A leader in the community for more than two decades, with experience that spans across local government, education and health, Rob Soward is no stranger to advocacy.
The current City of Launceston councillor and former deputy mayor believes that experience leaves him on the best footing to advocate for the constituents of Windermere.
He said initially he had no intentions of running for the Legislative Council seat, but was approached by several community members who encouraged him.
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He said those community members wanted to see someone with a bit of experience to sit in the Windermere seat, the outcome of which will be known after the vote on Saturday.
The election, held on the same day as the state election, will decide who, out of five candidates, will replace outgoing retiring Independent member Ivan Dean.
LEADERSHIP ROLES SHAPES THE MAN
Mr Soward said he had spent the last 25 years in leadership roles, which had helped to shape his understanding of politics and advocacy for the community.
"My roles in the past, in local government and education have really given me a good blend of life and work experiences," he said.
"What I learned along the way, is that you can have the best ideas in the world and the best intentions, but you need to find a way to be effective."
Mr Soward said his time as an educator had given him a unique insight into the things that affect the community.
CATCH UP ON OUR WINDERMERE ELECTORATE PROFILES
"You get to see first-hand how the community is doing and education is something that impacts on everyone," he said.
Seeing children coming to school with no shoes, or not having had breakfast, was heartbreaking to see, he said, but it also galvanised him to help enact change for those kids.
Similarly, after spending 12 years on the City of Launceston council had led Mr Soward to finessing his leadership skills.
"Local government has given me a great grounding and the experience to make things happen for the community."
Mr Soward was first elected to the City of Launceston, which is the largest council area in Northern Tasmania, in 2009.
He also served as the council's deputy mayor between 2014-2018. One of the projects he was instrumental in was the establishment of the FOGO kerbside service.
His most current role is working in the allied health space with the University of Tasmania, which had given him insight in the system's challenges and how it affects patients.
WHAT ISSUES DOES HE STAND FOR?
On the campaign trail, Mr Soward said there were three critical issues facing residents in the Windermere electorate.
The first, and largest issue, was the health system, and access to timely and affordable care.
Mr Soward said he'd heard "hundreds of stories" from voters about their experiences with the system, but said it came down to two main areas: waiting lists and bulk billing.
"What is occurring, is that people are waiting far too long for hospital surgeries," he said.
"Or they end up in the emergency department because they can't get access to or afford a GP visit."
He said he'd met elderly people who just didn't go to the doctor, because they knew they either couldn't afford it, or they knew they wouldn't be seen quickly in the ED.
The second issue facing the voters of Windermere is housing.
"There's two elements to that: affordable housing for rentals, and also the struggles of people trying to enter the market."
He said if he were elected to Windermere, he'd advocate for the government of the day to increase the access for the first home buyers grant to include purchase of a first home.
"There's a lot of red tape stopping people from entering the housing market," he said.
Lastly, he said the third issue that people kept bringing up with him was the state of the kanamaluka/Tamar estuary.
He said residents were concerned about the Liberal Party's promise to spend $4 million to dredge the river - despite the delay of an environmental report into sediment solutions.
"What I'm hearing is a lot of frustration - at the delay of the TEMT report, and the problem with the government deciding to dredge before reading that report."
ELECTION DATE CLASH 'UNFAIR'
Mr Soward said the state government's decision to hold its election the same day as the Windermere Legislative Council election had devalued the process for the electorate.
"This election should be about ideas, but it's being overshadowed, which is not fair to the voters of Windermere," he said.
"They deserve to have their candidates share their ideas freely in a public forum and without distraction."
Mr Soward said the seat had historically been won by Independent candidates, but the state election had meant party candidates had the ability to have more exposure than Independents.
Despite this, he said he believed he had the right experience and leadership to win the seat.
"Having someone experienced, independent and who can get things done are three crucial elements for the Legislative Council, and I can tick all three of those boxes," he said.
"I will ensure that I can be effective from day one and my allegiance is to the residents of Windermere."
- This is the final in a series of features on the candidates for the upcoming Windermere Legislative Council election.
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