Deputy mayor racks up $20k in training

Deputy mayor Tom Widenbar

‘Terrified’ of speaking in public

COCKBURN’S deputy mayor has convinced his fellow councillors to give him an additional $10,400 for public speaking classes after the City’s CEO told him the $11,350 he’d already spent this financial year should have been enough.

Tom Widenbar, whose current term on council ends in October this year, put forward the request at the council’s March 9 ordinary meeting after the CEO’s knock-back in January.

“I’m still terrified every time I get up to speak,” Cr Widenbar told the chamber.

“I have noticed that since I have not been working with my public speaking coach, my performance – my ability to speak at an event, in front of people at an awards ceremony, it is starting to deteriorate since I don’t have that support to continue to develop and grow.

“I think I am ok, and I’m passable, but would like to improve and continue to develop and would like to be the best version of myself in my role as deputy mayor when I’m in front of people speaking and representing this city.”

Councillor Taren Dewan noted that in an officer’s report, Cr Widenbar had two incomplete courses which the council had funded in 2021, and asked whether it was wise investing further in his training.

Cr Widenbar said one two-day course on conflict resolution had been disrupted by having to pick up one of his young daughters from daycare after she started showing signs of gastro. He decided not to complete the second day because there was a $400-$500 reschedule fee and it was mostly reviewing the information from the day he’d completed. 

Cr Widenbar said he paid the resubmission fee for the other course at the Institute of Company Directors the day before the council meeting and now had three months to complete his final essay.

Councillors Phoebe Corke and Phil Eva spoke against Cr Widenbar’s request, saying it wasn’t a good use of ratepayers’ funds.

“I’m really sorry that the deputy mayor gets scared of speaking and that it’s hard for him, but the fact is he put his hand up to be deputy mayor and we’ve already spent $16,400,” Cr Corke said, referring to his training costs in the 2022 calendar year.

“It is a lot of money. If you think of what you could do with that in the community, another $10,400 is just not a great use of rate payer funds. I don’t see how we can justify training somebody in public speaking”. 

Councillor Eva said he had a cheaper alternative for the deputy mayor.

“I’ve was just looking through some local groups in Cockburn and I’ve just noticed the Toastmasters, for the next six months I think it’s $130, which is very cheap.

“Would the deputy mayor think about going with the local group which is in Beeliar.”

Cr Widenbar said he’d been to Toastmasters previously, but the professional training he was applying for was “targeted, one-on-one coaching for specific speaking events”.

The council’s governance and strategy executive Emma Milne had offered Cr Widenbar three training sessions with Chatterbox Public Speaking at $5200, but they didn’t include one-on-one sessions so he declined.


Leave a Reply