The words Tatura and Gunna go hand in hand when passion and determination for the town is concerned.
But now there are three more words added to the mix — Order of Australia.
Kevin ‘Gunna’ Ryan was recognised for his lifelong contribution to the community as part of this year’s Queen’s Birthday honours.
It has been a long 40 years for Mr Ryan, continuously contributing to the community, and this year in particular has been big, after being named Tatura and District’s Citizen of the Year in January and now an OAM.
Mr Ryan started his journey with council in 1972 at Rodney Shire.
‘‘As a 24-year-old it rocked me a little bit and I had to make up my mind, I had three young kids and I was on a dairy farm and being a councillor meant that you were going to be away quite some time, so I discussed it with my wife and she got behind me,’’ Mr Ryan said.
At the time Mr Ryan was not considering staying on in council for 40 years, but continued to fight for the rural communities.
Joining City of Greater Shepparton Council in 1994, Mr Ryan became Deputy Mayor and a respected councillor.
‘‘I was Deputy Mayor to just about everybody that came in and I was very proud to be asked every time someone new was nominated for mayor,’’ Mr Ryan said.
Mr Ryan described his time in council as ‘‘always a bridesmaid never the bride’’.
‘‘Probably one of my greatest disappointments was never taking on Mayor, but you had to be realistic and to be the Mayor was a full-time job and I knew I couldn’t do it justice and do what the Greater Shepparton deserved,’’ he said.
The first time Mr Ryan stood for council he lost by more then 50 votes.
‘‘The electoral commission wouldn’t let me use the name ‘Gunna’ I had to stand as Kevin Ryan and I got beaten by about 50 or 60 votes because no-one knew me as Kevin.
‘‘The next term I stood as Kevin ‘Gunna’ Ryan and I got in,’’ Mr Ryan said.
Mr Ryan said two projects stood out from his time on council as personal and memorable.
‘‘Tatura Park is my most memorable development, watching dairy week grow bigger and bigger every year and opening up the multi-purpose arena,’’ he said.
He said the second to follow was the push to make the City of Greater Shepparton the major tourist and sporting capital of Australia.
‘‘That’s the proudest moment that I’ve got as far as a long-term sustainable development, to brand ourselves as the major tourist and sporting capital of Australia,’’ Mr Ryan said.
‘‘Now when you look around Shepparton it’s ‘no vacancy, no vacancy, no vacancy’, so it’s created a problem, but what a problem to have,’’ he said.
Mr Ryan said he would be receiving this award because of the people who had worked beside him.
‘‘All the work that I have done, it has always been in conjunction with a group of people that all have the same wish to better the town,’’ he said.
Mr Ryan describes his life now as an ‘‘old feather duster that is still being used at council’’.
‘‘I’m very proud to have been a part of it for over 40 years and I can assure you it won’t finish, people still see me as a councillor,’’ he said.
Mr Ryan would continue to push council for more industrial land and any issues that affected the growth of Tatura.
‘‘It’s ironic, I get this award and the bollards are shifted in a matter of days,’’ he said.