Power 30: Clarence Valley's most influential #11-14
14. Robert Blanchard
THE light blue trucks bearing the Herb Blanchard name are a common site throughout our area, and standing at the helm is CEO Robert Blanchard.
Mr Blanchard is the first one to say in interviews that the business, started by his parents Noreen and Herb, is still run by the family, rather than a single person, but his advocacy for the transport sector has his name at the forefront of the local and national industry.
Mr Blanchard has acted as a director of national industry body NatRoad in the past and is still a contributor to many transport issues throughout the area. The company employs more than 30 people with a fleet of around 25 with three depots and has been the major carrier of poles for Koppers Wood products since the 1960s.
Mr Blanchard and his family have been at the forefront of safety and technology advances within the industry, with safety requirements of exceeding national standards, and advances to vehicle tracking and safety features long implemented before they were a norm in the industry.
In interviews, Mr Blanchard said they were not a company that pursues aggressive expansion, rather focussing on providing service to their clients. They have actively supported local businesses through visibility campaigns on their vehicles, to local event sponsorship - one of which gave them the naming rights for the Grafton Cup.
With the new highway developments making Grafton a hub for multiple highways and uniquely placed between the capital cities, Blanchards stands as a mainstay of local industry and transport.
13. Jason Grimes
AT THE helm of an organisation that was brought to the Clarence Valley after years of campaigning by the community, the US-born Jason Grimes is the centre manager of headspace.
A former youth worker in juvenile justice, Jason has helped get headspace off the ground across the whole Clarence Valley, with outreach centres opening in Maclean and Yamba this year.
Helping facilitate groups for youth, events and offering a safe space for people aged 12-25 to be themselves, headspace has become a beacon of hope in the Valley.
When headspace opened, Jason said he wanted to bring the community together with the existing health services in the Clarence Valley, to help address some of the issues in the area.
"For us it was about addressing those expectations and showing a realistic path, we're not the panacea, we're not going to fix all the mental health issues, but we can help," he said about the opening of headspace.
12. Jim Simmons
HE HAS guided Clarence Valley Council through a period of change and trouble, and after putting his hand up for another two years, Mayor Jim Simmons again makes our power 30 list.
After seeing council through to the transition of a new general manager, and provided the unenviable task of selling to his community the need for a special rates variation, he was elected unopposed to another two-year term to see out this council period.
However, he said after his reelection that while the SRV decision had gone through, he wanted to see out council's responsibility to fulfil Fit for the Future guidelines set by the state government.
Mr Simmons said he was humbled to continue in the role, and was happy to work alongside the current group of councillors who provided "good debate" on issues.
He is an active mayor, taking a back seat in his accounting business, and attends more than 20-30 events a month in every corner of the Clarence Valley. Mr Simmons was born and raised in the Clarence Valley, and worked as a clerk for Petty Sessions across the state before returning to work for the Canegrowers Association and finally partnering with Peter Hamilton in accounting in Maclean.
11. Kevin Hogan
IN AUGUST, Page MP Kevin Hogan found himself at the centre of the political maelstrom that resulted in the demise of a Prime Minister and the potentially fatal destabilisation of the government.
In that scenario, it is hard to imagine anyone coming out of that with their credibility intact, but Nationals MP Mr Hogan was one of the few on the government side to manage it.
In an attempt to dissuade the Liberal Party from proceeding with its disastrous attempt to replace a sitting prime minister in a leadership spill, Mr Hogan said he would move to the crossbenches if they proceeded.
The rest is history, the spill went ahead, the man put up as the new PM, Peter Dutton, failed to get the votes, with former treasurer Scott Morrison skated Steven Bradbury-like into the top job.
Mr Hogan's decision to stand aloof as the Nationals' Coalition partner self-destructed has been one of the few examples of sound political judgment on offer in recent months.
Since then Mr Hogan has embarked on a quest to establish a royal commission into two issues that vex the public and suppliers: the behaviour of supermarkets and the vagaries of petrol pricing.
Whether his voice will be heard in the cacophony of a rancorous election campaign, we will learn in time.