‘Mayfield will always be home to me’: Mayor of Australian city on his life down under

Nathan Conroy left Mayfield for the beaches of Frankston Australia and became the city’s mayor. Roisin Burke hears how he went into politics after managing a multimillion-dollar company
‘Mayfield will always be home to me’: Mayor of Australian city on his life down under

Nathan Conroy, Mayor of Frankston, Australia.

FROM Mayfield to mayor of Frankston, Australia, Corkonian Nathan Conroy, has, very literally, gone a long way.

Born in Erinville Hospital, Nathan grew up in Ballinderry Park in Mayfield, attending Mayfield Community School, where he said he had a great childhood and an inspiring education.

“I can happily say I had the best childhood in Mayfield so, to me, it will always be home,” Nathan said.

Talking about his time at Mayfield Community School, he said he found great guidance there.

“Mayfield Community School had a teacher called Laura Fox. Ms Fox, in my opinion, was and probably still is the greatest asset the school has ever had.

“She believed in my ability to succeed and it was never questioned, and that has stayed with me, even as we speak.”

Since leaving Cork to move to Australia, Nathan has had a number of achievements and successes.

“I left Mayfield at 19. I travelled around Australia before settling in Melbourne which, with the help of another Mayfield man, Gary Wood, allowed me to get to know the city and its people and, as they say, the rest is history.

“At 24, I was fortunate to become the general manager of a multimillion-dollar business, which I am very proud of, but it is something I worked extremely hard to achieve.

“Before the mayorship, my job was to help membership-based organisations who were struggling to perform financially. I would then make the necessary changes and guide them to profitability.

“I ran for election in 2020, and trying to campaign in the middle of a pandemic was difficult. I needed to adapt and keep going. I was blessed to achieve the highest vote in the entire city. This result came as a shock but, toward the end of my campaign, I was quite confident I would get elected, but I didn’t realise I would get the result I did.”

Nathan was sworn in on November 16, 2020, and 15 minutes later was elected deputy mayor. Then recently, Nathan became the mayor of Frankston.

Nathan said his Cork and Irish connections have always been a benefit to him during his time in Australia.

“Almost every person I meet speaks of their fondness of Ireland and its people, which politically is great. I think you could describe it as an ice breaker, so straight away people feel a connection to me, which is wonderful.”

Happily settled in Frankston with his future wife, Steffie Conroy, Nathan said it is an idyllic place to be.

“The city of Frankston is very special to me. It is where my future wife grew up and all her family still live pretty close to one another.

“I am lucky to live next to the beach; we have restaurants, bars, and café on our doorstep; [and] although the weather is temperamental, overall it’s lovely.”

Chatting about his ambitions as mayor, Nathan said he has a busy year ahead.

“We have both state and federal elections happening during my tenure. This hasn’t happened in a long time so the council has developed and consulted the community on our advocacy priorities (our big projects), which are currently worth over $100m [€62m] and my job is to persuade candidates to commit the funds.

“We have a huge organisation with just shy of 1,000 staff and I hope as mayor I have a positive impact throughout the city.”

As well as becoming mayor of his new hometown, Nathan is also enrolled in a two-year online MBA programme at Swinburne University.

A member of Fine Gael in Ireland and the Liberal Party in Australia, he said his core values are ones that he advocates for within his affiliations.

“Although I am affiliated with a party, it doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with all their policies and, by getting involved, you can change those policies.”

The core values Nathan believes in are creating opportunity, facilitating business, and education for all.

“I want everyone to be able to get ahead, regardless of where they came from. I want people to be able to dream bigger and then achieve those dreams (as cheesy as it sounds)

“I believe in a small lean government that minimises interference in our daily lives, and allows people and businesses to not only survive but thrive.

“I am passionate about education and one area we need to increase both in Ireland and Australia is our investment in childcare. If we are going to lift people out of disadvantage, or allow everyone to get ahead, education is the way, and that needs to start as young as possible.”

Nathan tries to get home to Cork at least every two years to see family and revisit his roots.

“Cork City overall is booming and I’m excited to watch it grow and develop over the coming years. All my family still live in Mayfield, mam [Martina], dad [Gerard], and brother [Jordan]... I try to visit every two years and, before the pandemic hit, my mam would come over the alternative years.”

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