The Eurobodalla Shire is mourning the death of former mayor Chris Vardon, a man described as “one of life’s true leaders”.
Popularly elected by fellow councillors as mayor for 12 years from 1989 to 2001, Councillor Vardon has been remembered for his ability to shape debate with fairness and equity.
He was also the Eurobodalla’s last shire president and first mayor after the Local Government Act came into force in 1993, replacing shire presidents with mayors.
Councillor Vardon died peacefully on Sunday morning in Batemans Bay, aged 75, with his family by his side.
His wife, Judy, was a constant and loyal companion through his life and a staunch supporter during his 21 years of commitment to the Eurobodalla community as a councillor.
A friend and mentor to many, Councillor Vardon has been described as “one of life’s true leaders” and a man of honour, humour and courtesy.
Long-time colleague and close friend, Deputy Mayor Rob Pollock OAM, says Councillor Vardon was rightfully proud of his achievements as mayor and president of the Shires Association of NSW.
Councillor Pollock recalled Councillor Vardon’s regular trips around the shire offices to catch up with staff.
“He made many friends through his courtesy and particularly his wonderful sense of humour,” said Councillor Pollock. “His response when asked how he was – ‘I’m always well!’ – became a catchcry.
“Eurobodalla’s reputation under Chris’s leadership grew steadily over those years. His statesmanship and his thorough preparation and research on all matters took this council to a higher place in government circles.
“Eurobodalla Shire was his pride; his contribution incalculable. Chris gave so much and expected so little in return.”
Council’s Director of Infrastructure Warren Sharpe also remembers Councillor Vardon’s selfless nature, describing him as a friend and mentor.
“Chris knew the power of the collective voice was far stronger than one, whether that was in council, the South East Australian Transport Strategy group, or the shires’ association.
“One of his greatest skills was to gain consensus. Even after robust debate, he was able to leave colleagues feeling they had contributed and had gained something of value they could support,” said Mr Sharpe.
Likewise, Councillor Maureen Nathan recounted Councillor Vardon’s knack for reaching difficult decisions without necessarily agreeing, and without acrimony. “Men like him are few and far between,” she said.
Long-time councillor Lindsay Brown said he had left a great legacy.
“Chris led the shire with true vision,” said Councillor Brown. “He understood his responsibility as mayor and as a collegiate and supportive leader.”
Current Eurobodalla’s mayor Liz Innes also reflected on Councillor Vardon’s tremendous contribution to the shire.
“Many of the wonderful facilities and services our residents enjoy today are thanks to Chris’s hard work and connections,” she said. “He was a true statesman who loved this place and the people he represented.”
The Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Gardens, University of Wollongong Batemans Bay campus, tourism marketing, and council’s trainee and apprenticeship initiative are all legacies of Councillor Vardon’s leadership.
He is survived by his wife, Judy, and two of their three daughters.
Due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, a public celebration and acknowledgement of Councillor Vardon’s life and his enormous contribution to the Eurobodalla Shire will be held at a later time.