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‘Dark days’: Lord Mayor Sally Capp calls it quits

Assignment Freelance Picture MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NewsWire Photos MARCH 28, 2024: Melbourne Lord
 Mayor Sally Capp announces she is stepping down and will not seek a third
 term at the October elections. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Blair Jackson
Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp will not seek a third term at the October elections. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Blair Jackson

Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Sally Capp is standing down.

Ms Capp is nearing the end of her second term in office, with elections to be held in October, and will step aside at the end of June.

“It is with mixed emotions that I am announcing I will not be contesting the next local government election,” she said in a statement on Thursday morning.

“I love this job – it is an honour and privilege to represent the people of Melbourne.”

The city was in “dire need of leadership when I was elected”, with “a culture of unacceptable councillor behaviour and delays on major projects”, Ms Capp said.

MELBOURNE CUP PARADE
Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp and Victorian Racing Club chairman Neil Wilson at Federation Square with the Melbourne Cup in 2022. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw

She pointed to a renewal project of the Queen Victoria Market, transitional homelessness accommodation and battery storage schemes as key achievements.

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Appearing on ABC’s News Breakfast on Thursday morning, Ms Capp said “since all my 50s so far have been in town hall, it’s time for me to move on”.

“I’m encouraging everyone to get involved in public office. It’s a great way to get involved,” she said.

Ms Capp relished the citizenship ceremonies the most.

“We’re the biggest and I think best city in Australia,” she said.

Assignment Freelance Picture MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NewsWire Photos MARCH 28, 2024: Melbourne Lord\n Mayor Sally Capp announces she is stepping down and will not seek a third\n term at the October elections. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Blair Jackson
A vendor hands outgoing Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp a flower. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Blair Jackson

The “shocks” of the Covid-19 pandemic were still being felt, as weekday “rhythms” in the city were still not back to pre-pandemic levels, she said.

Copping “unfair” commentary had only strengthened her resolve, Ms Capp said in response to a question about sexist comments.

Ms Capp ruled out state or federal politics next.

Speaking at a press conference outside city hall, the former Collingwood Football Club board member said “I really don’t know what comes next for me. I do know that I have a lot of energy still a lot of ambition to make a difference in a contribution”.

PERFORMERS HIT CITY STREETS
In 2021, Melbourne introduced a scheme to get buskers and music back into the CBD after Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling

Ms Capp felt speculation about whether she was recontesting the mayoralty had been “taking sunshine and oxygen” from conversations she was having about major projects.

Asked whether she had any regrets from her time in public office, the Lord Mayor said there was still much to do, which injected “mixed emotions” into her resignation decision.

The “dark days” of pandemic lockdowns were undoubtedly the most challenging part of her mayoralty.

“To see now the city back on this very positive trajectory is important to me,” she said of the post-pandemic recovery.

Ms Capp was the first female to be directly elected as Melbourne lord mayor and just the third of 104 lord mayors who were female.

“It actually takes quite a lot of courage, just to put your hand up and campaign and I really hope that with my encouragement, more people and more women in particular will consider running for public office.”

Flanked by her husband and one of her sons, the Lord Mayor thanked her family for their support during her time in office.