POLL: Williams and Zilani head to head for upcoming Mandurah mayoral election

Councillor Ahmed Zilani and Mayor Rhys Williams.
Councillor Ahmed Zilani and Mayor Rhys Williams.

It's been a big couple of years for Mandurah mayor Rhys Williams, unrolling a big ambitious agenda amid a global pandemic.

Despite the unexpected curve balls, Mayor Williams has shaken up the council during his four-year term, with bold planning including a heavy focus on revamping the city centre and fixing chronic homelessness, unemployment and social disadvantage.

There's no signs of slowing down either, with campaigning about to begin for the upcoming mayoral election on October 16.

His only challenger so far is Councillor Ahmed Zilani who has been on the Mandurah City Council for two years.

'My family blames me'

Cr Zilani said his family was already frustrated because "his whole focus is the city".

"My family blames me - why do you always think about the city, they ask me," he said. "Mandurah is a lovely place and I always talk with the people, I like people so much. I'm very much community oriented."

He lives and breathes Mandurah, he said, and even quit other work when he became a councillor so he could give his new role his full attention.

Cr Zilani, who is perhaps best known for a hunger strike in his fight for Lakelands Train Station, is trying to win ratepayers with the promise of less spending by the city and therefore no rate rises.

He said this could be achieved by lobbying for the state government to pick up many expenses including Mandurah Performing Arts Centre, Visit Mandurah and environmental programs.

The 56-year-old Meadow Springs husband to wife, Rozina and father of Joshua, 16, was elected in 2019 to the North Ward.

He has been campaigning since he threw his hat in the ring for mayor in May but said he hasn't published his campaign pamphlet yet as he would do it closer to the election so no-one would copy it.

"I'm talking to people, I'm knocking on doors and standing in shopping centres. I'm getting lots of responses," the business man said.

He said the Mandurah council needed more transparency and accountability on spending, more youth activities and activation of areas aside from the city centre.

He vowed not to accept any donations during his campaign so he "wouldn't have to serve any third parties".

The Zilanis arrived in Australia from Bangladesh in 2000 and came to Mandurah in 2010.

Big picture level

Mayor Williams announced in March that he would be running for a second four-year term.

The 33-year-old, who lives in Falcon with his partner, Skipper van Peer, said he felt proud of what he has achieved so far.

"I really feel like we've now got the right vision and planning underway to ensure the next decade will see Mandurah flourish...and that's something I'm proud of," Mayor Williams said.

"My biggest learning in my first term has been the importance of fronting up to the big stuff and not being afraid to be bold.

"We've worked really hard over this term on addressing complex issues like chronic homelessness, structural unemployment, coastal erosion and others, and despite the nature of these challenges meaning we don't see them solved overnight, I'm feeling good about the direction we're headed.

He said he was especially proud of the City's lobbying to get the Common Ground initiative committed to Mandurah which would see long term housing for the homeless.

"We're now seen as a leader in WA for the way we're addressing this issue," he said.

He said Mandurah had "real momentum" with nearly half a billion dollars' of public infrastructure either underway or soon to begin in Mandurah - the type of spending the city hadn't seen for a long time.

"We've also got significant private investor interest in Mandurah, which we haven't seen at all for the past 10 years, and which, if we do it right, will help bring new industries here, which is great news," Mayor Williams said.

"It's certainly been interesting rolling the start of this agenda out amid a global pandemic, but it's been such a privilege to be mayor."