The last time Josh Cotter ran for election was just six months ago in September at the age of 22.
For this Saturday’s Campbelltown Council byelection he’s once again running under the Community First Team.
So it’s welcome back Cotter, but there’s a couple of differences.
Firstly, his age.
The Glen Alpine resident turned 23 in December.
And secondly he is running on his own this time around because the founder of Community First Team, Paul Lake, got elected for a further term last September.
This election is being held to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Cr Fred Borg just before Christmas.
Josh Cotter is relishing the opportunity to have a shot at getting elected off his own bat.
Cotter, who is a youth leadership development officer for the education office of the Catholic Church in the Wollongong diocese (which includes Macarthur and the Southern Highlands regions) said it was his decision to run in the byelection without any prompting from Cr Lake.
“I decided myself to run – once we knew there was going to be an election when Labor nominated a candidate [Ben Gilholme] and then Gary Potts as well, I thought, if there’s going to be an election I’m going to put my hand up,’’ Cotter says.
“I didn’t get elected last September, but I believe in trying again and again until I get on to council, whenever that may be,’’ he says.
“Hopefully it could be next week, but if not I will keep trying,’’ Cotter says in the interview last Friday.
“My biggest thing, my biggest driver is my family, but making sure people are proud of Campbelltown and where we come from, that’s a big thing for me, that’s why I want to get on council.
“I want to be able to try to fix things like the congestion on our roads.
“As you know I am an educator and a lot of my schools are in the area and I am in the community every day driving those same roads as you are, parking in the same carparks you area, struggling to find parking,’’ Cotter says.
“So I am not someone working out of the area not experiencing what it’s like every day.
“I live and work here every day so I am feeling the pressure, and I want to make those changes to benefit the community and myself and my family,’’ Cotter said.
Born and bred in Campbelltown, he attended Holy Family School in Ingleburn, and when his family moved to Glen Alpine from Minto he continued his primary schooling at Our Lady Help for Christians in Rosemeadow.
He was school captain at John Therry High and this high achiever has just continued to excel since then.
In 2011 Josh Cotter was named Campbelltown Youth Ambassador and a year later he picked up an even bigger honour, Campbelltown Young Citizen of the year.
Cr Paul Lake, who served one year as mayor last term, can’t speak highly enough of his young political comrade.
“Josh has got a great presentation, he speaks well, he uses common sense, is well respected in the community and where he works, and comes from a great family,’’ Cr Lake said during campaigning for the September general election.
“I think we need younger people and we need sensible people on there and Josh fits that bill.
“I reckon he’d look good in the mayoral robes,’’ Cr Lake said at the time.
But that was then and this is now and Josh Cotter is on his own for this particular electoral battle.
So he has rolled up his sleeve and worked as hard as he could out on the hustings.
“Train stations, shopping centres, letter drops, door knocking, yes, I am doorknocking – I am doing everything I possibly can to be sure that as many people as possible know I am giving them a choice,’’ he says.
“And this time it’s just about me, Josh Cotter, and my credentials, and that’s a big thing for me, for people to vote for me for what I have done and what I plan to do,’’ says Cotter.
I ask him what people mostly want to talk about when he bails them up at train stations or when he’s out door knocking.
I shouldn’t be, but his answer surprises me.
“The biggest thing is they say, ‘thank you, I didn’t even know there was an election on’.
“Another thing they say is that they are sick of this whole political process, and as soon as you say the word independent people switch on, that’s the key thing I am noticing – being an independent resonates with voters,’’ says Cotter.
“It doesn’t mean the independents are going to win, it’s hard going up against a major party but I am seeing people switching on, saying, yes I will vote for an independent.
“And it helps that there are only three candidates, and it’s a nice, small sheet of voting paper.
“Another thing is that they have concerns and they want to speak to someone about it.
“If you work in the city in a 9 to 5 job you’re not accessible, and maybe that’s why people don’t know who their councillors are.
“The other thing is that councillors should be going to the people not expecting them to come to them.
“It can’t just be at election time when we’re around door knocking and letter dropping because we want people’s votes – pick a suburb once a month and do it on the weekend,” Cotter said.
“We should be door knocking and letter dropping all the time to find out what the people want or what their concerns are.
“We can’t fix them all but at least bring them to light, and be there so people remember your face, remember that you actually tried.
“And that actually helps with the issue of accessibility,’’