Kogarah Mayor Jim Taylor has informed R2K that he will be retiring from Council in March. The likeable Mayor, who played a key role in the return of the Dragons to Kogarah, has decided not to contest the March 27 local Government election.
Following the path blazed by the R2K campaign, Councillor Taylor was responsible for recommending a maintenance program that guaranteed Oki Jubilee Stadium would be ready for the return of the Dragons in 2003. On 22 July 2002, Taylor put forward his proposal that ensured the Dragons would "return home in 2003 and remain at Kogarah for the next 50 years."
Taylor, who first watched the Dragons at Hurstville Oval, echoed the thoughts of all St.George supporters when he stated: "It's time to bring the Dragons back to Kogarah, it's time that the Kogarah residents and the St.George Community had their football team back playing at their local ground."
Councillor Taylor was instrumental in launching the Jubilee Oval Community Appeal and actively lobbied the State Government for an $800,000 grant for the Jubilee upgrade. The $800,000 was secured in December 2002 from the Premier's Department (Major Venues Cabinet Sub-Committee), following a petition that Taylor launched in late July 2002. R2K assisted the Mayor's initiative by collecting in excess of 5,000 signatures over a short period of time.
Taylor, who likened the support generated from the Jubilee campaign to that of a tsunami, implored his Council to aid the Dragons in their Kogarah comeback:
"Kogarah Council has to continue to demonstrate leadership within the St.George region. Clearly, the St.George-Illawarra Dragons are the most significant and recognisable cultural and sporting identity in the area, and it is imperative that Council play its role in assisting their return."
He reacted strongly to certain commentators on AM radio stations who were keen to perpetuate the myth that Kogarah Council was the main stumbling block to the return of the Dragons. In an interview with R2K, Taylor remarked:
"Unfortunately Council has been painted as the villain in the piece. Uninformed comments by the media, both electronic and paper, leaves me wondering is there some hidden agenda in there to support what has become rugby league for the corporate dollar rather than entertainment for the grass roots supporters. I know and you know that the dyed in the wool Dragon supporter wants to stand on the hill and watch the game."
While Taylor is satisfied with the stage one improvements to Oki Jubilee Stadium, he also informed R2K of his long-term vision of Kogarah: "I want to see a quality, boutique ground capable of holding 18 to 20 thousand fans in comfort. I would like to see a stand on the eastern side with community facilities under it. Perhaps we can fulfil this vision by first getting back to Jubilee and then beginning a process that will convince decision makers with money of its merit."
Although Jim Taylor's achievements as Kogarah Mayor are far ranging and in no way limited to football, his impact on the return to Jubilee will be his most memorable legacy. The current Kogarah Council administration, headed by Gary Sawyer, is widely regarded as the best in Kogarah's history and far superior to that of Rockdale and Hurstville. The current Council have supported developments that are transforming central Kogarah to an urban centre that the entire Municipality can be proud of. The award winning Kogarah Town Square redevelopment is a prime example of the achievements of Kogarah Council under Jim Taylor's leadership.
The Town Centre redevelopment has also assisted the Dragons since their return to Kogarah, as it includes a 224-space car park in Derby Street, which is free for supporters on weekends. R2K hopes that Councillor Taylor's replacement is a like-minded individual who has the best interests of the Kogarah community at heart. In keeping with Councillor Taylor's vision for Jubilee Oval, there are still goals that need to be achieved such as community friendly permanent lighting that eliminates such issues as light spill and glare. R2K wishes Jim Taylor a happy retirement and will publish a farewell website interview prior to the 27 March election.
To visit Jim Taylor's page on the Kogarah Council website, visit: