Newly-elected Eurobodalla Mayor Mathew Hatcher spent 10 years travelling the globe but he says Canberra is where he found his passion for coffee.
Mathew’s background is in hospitality – a great way to tune into people, what they think and what they want out of life – and coffee was the ultimate conversational aid.
“I was lucky enough to meet Sasa Sestic (2015 World Barista Champion) in Canberra and he instilled the love of coffee in me,” he said.
“I went on from there to work for multiple cafes. I was (also) manager of Poacher’s Pantry for around a year. I ran the restaurant and weddings.
“Previous to that, I was travelling the world for a solid 10 years while working various hospitality jobs in Australia, UK and USA. I worked for Flight Centre in Bath, Bristol and then Batemans Bay.
“In 2013, when I was living in Canberra, I travelled to the coast to attend my Australian Citizenship ceremony at Eurobodalla Council. I never would have believed the path my life would take from that day to where I am now.”
In fact, Mathew’s path to the mayoral robes of a NSW South Coast council could hardly have been less likely but, as so often is the case, it was love that inspired the move.
Mathew met his now partner Holly while supervising summer camp in Pennsylvania’s Poconos Mountains in 2001.
“I was teaching website design and Holly – who grew up at Tomakin (in the Eurobodalla) – was, of course, a lifeguard,” he said.
The devastating terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre made Mathew re-evaluate his life. Realising “the world could end tomorrow”, he took the first opportunity to sell his possessions and jump on a Greyhound coach for a two-day ride to Canada – and Holly.
The pair flew to London, travelled through Europe, and then, in Africa, Mathew popped the question.
Finally in Australia, they made for Tomakin where Mathew thought: “This is paradise. These are the kind of people I want to be around, this is where I would want to start a family”.
Work took the couple to Canberra, but the citizenship ceremony proved to be crunch time.
“It was that day I decided it was time to get back to the coast, so I left my job and made the move,” Mathew said.
“For the first year I chose to work little and play a lot of golf. It took me around three months to realise I didn’t want to sit back. This was home now so it was time to make a difference.
“I know I’ll never sound truly Aussie, probably never make full local status, but this is home.”
Mathew joined the Batemans Bay Business and Tourism Chamber where he met business owners and leaders in the community.
“It was such a great chance to surround myself with others that wanted to make things happen and were energised to do it quickly,” he said.
“I started my first business – a mobile coffee van – and that gave me the opportunity to get in front of a lot of locals and meet so many people across the shire. I started a coffee van business at the Moruya markets and then started Guerrilla Roasters in 2018 to supply roasted coffee on the South Coast. We work closely with producers to get amazing coffees but also make sure farmers get their fair share at origin.
“From there I started donating time to various groups and raising funds for non-profits. This opened my eyes to the lack of resources we had in regional Australia and that by rolling up your own sleeves you could make a huge impact.”
Mathew made a massive impact after the Black Summer bushfires, working with a team of volunteers to establish the South Coast Donations Logistics Team to coordinate and distribute the tidal wave of donated goods that came into the shire.
With no experience in natural disaster recovery or logistics management, he and his team were able to get essentials out to stricken residents far more quickly than any of the established agencies – without any questions asked.
“My passion is this community and making it a great place to raise a family,” Mathew said.
“It’s strange to think a boy from Alabama would be chosen to lead this community but, taking a step back, I think I understand why. Through bushfires, floods and the current pandemic, residents want someone who is going to roll up their sleeves and get in the trenches.
“Residents want clear communication between themselves and the council and want to see themselves represented. The new councillor group is just that; we are your neighbour, your social advocate and even your barista. Just a group of people who want the same things you want.
“I’m incredibly proud to have been elected by Eurobodalla residents to be the face and voice of their shire. I’m so pleased to work alongside my fellow councillors and so enthused by the work they have put in already in these early days. While we are mostly new to local government, we’re putting the hours in to catch up on the issues in the community.”