Mayor Damien Ryan will not contest council election



Mayor of Alice Springs Damien Ryan has announced that he will not be contesting the next council election.

The Mayor broke the news to family, fellow elected members, council officers and former council staff at a Mayor’s morning tea this morning, according to sources who attended the event.

This comes after months of speculation, with Mayor Ryan remaining tight lipped about his future until today. At the budget draft announcement on Wednesday he said he was still putting off his decision until June.

Mr Ryan has served as Mayor since 2008, though last year he temporarily stood down to contest the Northern Territory election as the CLP candidate for Araluen, with the promise of a front bench seat if the party was successful. When he failed to win he returned to his office at council.

In February he accepted a three year appointment as the LGANT representative on the NT Heritage Council, resulting in speculation that he would re-contest.

The upcoming Federal election looms, and CLP have held off on announcing their candidate to contest Lingiari, held by retiring long term Labor MP Warren Snowdon.

Current councillors Eli Melky and Jimmy Cocking have announced that they are running for Mayor.

Mayor Ryan was contacted for comment but has not replied.

PHOTO: Mayor Ryan (left) – an eye on Lingiari from which Warren Snowdon is retiring?

UPDATE 9.15am May 28

This morning Mayor Ryan confirmed to the News that his last official day will be on August 5, ahead of the council election.


  1. Eli Melky or Jimmy Cocking for mayor?
    I couldn’t vote for either.
    Time for more candidates to step up.

  2. Jon, ouch, have you ever met Jimmy or me, Jimmy is one of the nicest people you will meet. Love to catch up, people usually change their mind after they meet people.

  3. @ Eli Melky, I don’t vote for personalities and couldn’t care less whether councillors or politicians are nice or nasty.
    I am only interested in their policies.
    I’m hoping to be able to vote for a Mayoral candidate who sees the need for transparency in place of “operational” secrecy and a shift of power from the CEO and directors to the elected representatives.
    Several issues, such as the handling of the solar lights in Hartley St, triggered my concerns.
    What’s your position?

  4. @ Eli Melky: From your lack of response on a key policy issue I can only assume you endorse the current lack of transparency of the council including ‘operational’ secrecy and the powerlessness of elected members when the CEO disagrees eg the solar lights.
    If that’s not the case I invite you to publicly state what your position is.

  5. Jon: I think you will find Eli very often opposes any lack of transparency and closed sessions.

  6. @ Ralph Folds: To his credit Eli Melky was the first councillor to object to operational confidentiality.
    Unfortunately that appears to have been a one off.
    Marli Banks is the strongest advocate for transparent local governance.
    Care to stand for Mayor, Marli?

  7. @ Ralph Folds: Mate you assume wrong. Over my 10 Years in council, this newspaper has reported in detail on council and decisions that came to be or not.
    If you search the archives [google the paper’s seven million word archive – ED], you will see clearly that I was able to gain support for greater transparency in terms of finances, where once it was all confidential and now mostly out in the open.
    I pushed for paying out all council debt saving thousands of ratepayer dollars. I constantly challenge the CEO, Mayor, and others to discuss matters in the open, most recently I asked to have the 2022 municipal plan discussed in open prior to approval. That was lost.
    I am dead set against keeping elected members in the dark and have made that very clear in the chamber.
    I am not impressed at the Hartley Street lights, the intent was safety and the environment, and, on that score, I was very supportive, but now we need to consider the cost of removal and replacement against the value of aesthetics.
    If there is a growing perception that there is an effort to keep elected members out of the loop, that is only possible when elected members support the suggestions put by the officers.
    I have gone against every decision that has or could lead to an evaporation of elected members power in the chamber.

  8. @ Eli Melky: All well and good but I’m concerned about your record on the push for elected members to limit their role to policy.
    As the Alice Springs News online has pointed out, the Hartley St solar lights illustrate the risks of councillors being limited to policy only.
    More solar lighting said the elected representatives.
    Council implemented with poorly considered, hideous lights.
    Move the lights demanded several councillors and back in May 2020 CEO Jennings assured council they could easily be moved.
    He would look into this option and report.
    But without a report from Jennings on the option to move the lights, council was informed by the manager for infrastructure that the lighting upgrade is complete.
    The ugly lights will remain.
    Message from council management: Councillors make policy but we implement it and don’t interfere.
    You went along with this, pointing out that the lights were bright enough.
    Cr Jamie Debrenni did not.
    On the 9th of March this year he dragged you and others along when he adding to the Municipal Plan FY21 (Quarterly Progress Report Report No. 317/21) that “due to ongoing complaints from the public regarding the upgrade of Hartley Street lighting, this item should be classed as in progress rather than complete”.
    You are now saying that we need to consider the cost of removal and replacement of the lights against the value of aesthetics.
    That somewhat lame response, in the context of this year long saga, does not inspire confidence in you as a strong defender against the push for elected reps to confine themselves to policy.
    Cr Jamie Debrenni advised me that the lights will be moved (even if he has to do it himself) but not as a Council project.
    He believes it will happen under the NT Government’s CBD revitalisation project.

  9. @ Ralph Folds: This Hartley Street lights saga is a shining example of when things go wrong they go very wrong.
    When the process elected members should have confidence in fails. Policy is set by elected members yes, however we are bound to the Act more so than policy as the Act trumps policy.
    Officers are duty bound to follow decisions of council which is reached by considering policy and adhering to the Act. However as much as policy and the Act govern council, much more importantly is the ability to consider the community needs and wants.
    This is where consultation is key. Where any of those three key points is missing, then expect a disaster.
    That said I was not dragged as you say by anyone and I do not subscribe to limiting us to policy only.
    If I were responsible for the office of the Mayor, you can expect a very transparent, inclusive and forward thinking Council.
    On the matter of removing the lights, you tell me if it’s good spend of thousands more rate payers money just to make you and others happy because you think they are an eyesore?
    Throughout this whole saga I have stayed consistent on this issue even under the spotlight and heat of pressure I did not bow down for the sake of votes and will not start now.
    Can others say that? I see the lights are still there.

  10. The issue of the solar lights goes beyond a question of “aesthetics”.
    In my opinion, they demonstrate a poor design decision and serve to make those decision-makers (and us all, as a town) look stupid.
    In a more sensible and less ideologically-driven past, the need for more lighting at that location would have been solved with several additional light posts, aligned with and matching those existing along that street and connected to existing power. Too simple, perhaps, for our wanna-be designers in council management.
    Instead, we have a “solution” which I suspect is a much more expensive alternative, most likely led by a desperate need to show off our town’s so-called “Solar City” credentials, as was also done several years back, at Stuart Park, in our town’s heritage precinct.
    Solar lights are great, but they’d be better used at locations where in-ground power is not available, such as along bike paths on the periphery of town, for example. Now that would be smart.
    As an architect, I do not believe that these stand alone “solar trees” will cost that much to re-locate to somewhere more appropriate.
    It would be a small price to pay if it would teach our decision-makers a lesson: more public consultation, please!

  11. @ Domenico Pecorari: Thanks for pointing out that the solar lights issue is about opportunity costs and not just “aesthetics”.
    Some time ago I visited a remote community where the dark corners were illuminated by resplendent solar crosses installed by the local church group.
    As you say, the Hartley Street solar lights could be very useful in lighting up areas on the edge of our town where in-ground power is not available.
    No doubt they would improve community safety.
    The Hartley St lights are just bolted onto pads so moving them would not be expensive and well worth while.
    Unfortunately, the current situation is that the Council’s department of infrastructure appears determined to leave them where they are.

  12. @ Domenico Pecorari, Ralph Folds: Gentlemen, you forget it’s the Alice Springs Town Council we are discussing.
    Based on my experience of watching them work, the ratio is about 4:1.
    In private business you have to be more efficient but in the case of the council, they just skimp of doing the job we already pay them for or hike up the rates to cover any shortfalls.
    So the short answer is, that it would likely cost the ratepayer four times the cost than a private company.
    BUT had they consulted the employers (ratepayers) in the first instance, we could have saved the money or located the lights somewhere there there isn’t power.

  13. @ Surprised: All they had to do was run the Hartley St solar lights past the elected members.
    Cr Jamie Debrenni, for one, would have stopped it.
    Unfortunately, the implementation of the solar lights policy was “operational” so not open to elected members opinions.
    Even worse, it has been impossible for elected members to get the council to move the lights.
    Accountability to ratepayers?

  14. Well said Dom, Ralph and Surprised et al. It’s my belief the council lighting saga is symptomatic of a toxic, unprofessional and inefficient culture within the Alice Springs Town Council.
    For our iconic desert town poor design decisions really do amount to death by a thousand cuts.
    The Government at all levels should be leading by example but regretfully, the built environment is a reflection of myriad poor decisions, a decades long history of lost opportunities.


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