Things to know about Denise

Coffs Harbour Mayor elect Denise Knight.
Coffs Harbour Mayor elect Denise Knight. Trevor Veale

WHEN Denise Knight went to work at Baringa Private Hospital on Wednesday morning she didn't rate her chances of becoming Coffs Harbour's mayor very highly.

Only a little more than 100 votes separated the effervescent career nurse and councillors Keith Rhoades and John Arkan.

Ms Knight had topped the primary vote with 7710 votes - a lead of 39 over Cr Rhoades who was 64 ahead of Cr Arkan - but she was sure the distribution of references wouldn't go her way.

When she finished her shift mid afternoon and opened her work locker her phone revealed a rash of missed calls.

"It was then I found out that after Rod Degen's preferences were allocated, I had overtaken Keith and that his preferences would decide who became mayor," Ms Knight said.

"I was in shock but still not overly confident. I had sense on election day that voters wanted change, but I didn't jump to any conclusions."

Then it was about around 8.30, while dining with her husband, Dr Chris Knight, at the Jetty Strip that Denise got the call that would change her life.

"I went so quiet when Paul Whitman (returning officer) said I had been elected mayor that Chris thought someone must have died. I was so excited I blurted out to everyone that I had been elected mayor. I was so humbled when everyone gave me a standing ovation."

Ms Knight was elected to council in 2008 as the third member on Cr Rhoades' ticket.

Now she succeeds him as Coffs Harbour mayor.




1. Career nurse

Denise grew up in Sydney's western suburbs and trained as a registered nurse at Sydney Hospital.

She has worked as a nurse for 35 years, the first 25 of which she spent in emergency wards.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago next month and stepped back from emergency department nursing.

I've more recently worked at both Baringa and the Health Campus.

I've loved nursing and still think it's a great career although I might not be able to do much while I'm mayor.

2. Wife and mother

I met my husband (Dr) Chris when he was a resident at St Vincents.

I was actually stood up by a devastatingly handsome man and Chris was my back up.

We travelled to Europe and London and were married in Paris in 1982.

We have three children, Catherine, 29, who is getting married in two weeks at the BIG Club, David who is 27 and Amy who is 24.

3. I love Coffs Harbour

We moved to Coffs Harbour from London in 1983.

Chris had done a locum in Urunga and wanted to go back there but a real estate agent in Sawtell found out we were coming and arranged a house rent free if he went into practice there.

We had a baby and $42 to our name so we took up his offer.

Sawtell has been an incredibly wonderful place to live.

My kids had a great upbringing. and I'm a life member of the Sawtell P&C. It is a really special place.

4. Life is about living

I see no point in living life at half- pace. I love to keep busy and be involved. It all just seems to get better.

5. Youth are our future

The kids of today are our future and I am committed to getting them a youth park which includes a skate ramp, an outdoor basketball court plus a range of other facilities for all ages.

I think we should also look at a public art space where they can do their graffiti and keep it off private and public buildings.

6. Passionate about the arts

I stood for council in 2008 because I thought our arts and cultural scene was a bit neglected.

We have so many talented people here but providing them with the galleries and performance spaces they deserve all comes down to money.

We have the vision, the passion and the plan - now we need to put it in place.

I don't want to put council into obscene debt but it is a given that council's financial position isn't going to improve much in future and so I wonder if we'd be better off taking out an affordable loan and bank on the patronage of new facilities paying off the mortgage.

I'm nervous, anxious and excited about assuming the position of mayor.

I've gotten to know all the senior council staff over the past four years and will be pestering them about all sorts of things over the next few weeks.

We have some very talented people in council. and I look forward to working with them.

7. Committed to equality

One of the great joys of the last four years on council has been meeting people from all walks of life and sections of our community.

Coffs really is a big melting pot and we need to build on that. I will continue to be a big supporter of Coastout and the Multicultural Festival.

We need to celebrate the differences which make our community so exciting.

8. A co-operative approach

To get things happening in Coffs Harbour  we need the community, the council and the business and service groups working together.

I can't be everywhere all the time.

I will make sure that when someone wants an answer or to see someone there will always be a councillor or council staff member available.

I want everyone on the new council to feel part of the team.

9. Let's get started

In the next few weeks I will doing a lot of looking, learning and listening.

I will be sit down with local member Andrew Fraser today, and next week will meet Luke Hartsuyker.

I looking forward to working with them and everyone else to get things like the Jetty Foreshores makeover done.

Topics:  coffs harbour city council denise knight local government mayor

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