Growing up in Proserpine I heard the family name “Willcox” from Bowen come up from time to time. Our local Water Resources representative was a fellow by the name of Trevor Willcox from Bowen. I went to the Willcox farm a few years ago with a friend who was buying a piece of equipment. I must admit to being surprised at the size of the operation of the farm. The thought that stuck with me was the fact that a lot of tomatoes were considered too ripe to be sold.
Then, a few years ago the name “Andrew Willcox” popped up in the Local Government elections. That is when the name became a bit more high profile in the southern part of the Whitsunday’s and even more so, since Andrew Willcox was elected the Mayor of the Whitsunday Regional Council (WRC) in 2016.
Sometimes when you meet someone in politics, the more you get to know them the more you might be wary of them or suspicious of their intentions. With Andrew Willcox I have found it to be the exact opposite. The more you get to know him, the more, in my opinion, you come to realise that he has the best of intentions. At the end of the day he has a down to earth attitude and good old fashioned common sense.
I recently had the chance to have a bit of a chat with Andrew. I was interested to know how he came to be involved in politics given his background of coming from a highly successful rural family in Bowen.
First of all, Andrew told me about growing up in Bowen and that he intended to go to Gatton to study Ag Science but initially deferred for 12 months subsequent to which he became involved directly in the family’s tomato farm. Andrew undertook a lot of relevant courses and subjects in business and environmental management and approached his career as a farmer in a very modern way. His priority was to improve all aspects from the actual growing of the crop to the business of selling and marketing the crop.
In simple terms, Andrew and his wife Raylene were both actively involved in the business together with Andrew’s sister Leanne and her husband Wayne Born. Over a number of years, the Willcox family grew its farming operations, whilst at the same time, showing foresight and a good understanding of succession planning. Whilst a central entity owned the whole of the business, Andrew and Raylene owned some land themselves and so did Leanne and Wayne as well as Andrew’s parents.
Andrew commented that it was this foresight on the part of his father that meant that there was a smooth transition in the takeover of the family farming business by Andrew and Leanne and their respective spouses.
In 2010 Andrew and Raylene decided that it was difficult to manage their off-farm investments, the farm and raise a family at the same time. The decision was made by Andrew and Raylene to sell out to Leanne and Wayne. This was done in a structured, amicable and business orientated manner. The end proof being that the family still gets on well.
Andrew decided to run for the WRC in 2012 and was fortunate enough to be elected as a councillor. Towards the end of his 4 year term as councillor he then felt a need to bring unity to the whole of the Whitsunday Region and that is why he says he ran for Mayor. Andrew has brought his business and communication skills and his own perspective of good governance which was translated to the running of the Council.
May I say, Andrew has quickly developed respect from all members of the community – not just those in Bowen. I grew up in Proserpine and was indoctrinated not to like Bowen (particularly Bowen rugby league players). I believe that Andrew should be congratulated on being able to develop the level of trust that he has within the community. He has quelled much of the divisive bickering which seems to have been prevalent in the area for so long. I say this even from the perspective of someone from the southern part of the region who can remember Mrs Pearce yelling abuse at the Brahman players when we played football against Bowen.
Andrew says that he does not see himself as a politician but more as a business person working in a government agency. Andrew is proud of the progress that he has made in the last 12 months and he wants to continue to work with members of all parts of the community in the Whitsunday Region to bring some much needed development and growth to the area. In order to kick those goals, Andrew made it very clear that he is not afraid to mix it with the politicians in Brisbane. As he told me referring back to his farming days when, one minute, he could be speaking to a foreign backpacker and the next the CEO of Coles.
Andrew clearly has the personality and ability to deal with people at all different levels and being able to treat them with the appropriate respect and dignity that they deserve. This has been important to the success that Andrew has brought to the role in the last 12 months and as his confidence and skills in the job develop, the Whitsunday Region should be optimistic about the direction in which we are heading.