Enduring the hardest of times convinced Pam Kensit that she should give back to her community.
In 1999 she suffered ovarian cancer and people rallied to her assistance.
"I was very sick and if not for the grassroots community doing extraordinary things to make my life more livable, I don't think I would have got through it," she said.
Soon after, she started lobbying for the "voiceless" people or those who didn't necessarily have time. It began with a Fish River Road landholder who'd had his road access cut and was virtually marooned on his property. There were many more, and the course was set to local government.
Five years after election to Upper Lachlan Shire, Cr Kensit became the council's first female mayor on January 13. Newcomer, Cr Mandy McDonald was elected her deputy.
They are among five women in the line-up, another first in the traditionally male dominated council.
Cr Kensit describes the current crop as a "colourful lot."
"I felt it was a whole new look council and like a box of chocolates, with different ideas. The leadership also needed a whole new look because if you have a new box of chocolates, you don't put the old wrappers on."
It's been a long journey for the Irish-born Crookwell district woman.
Born in the village of Ardmore on the border of Counties Waterford and Cork, one of three children, she credited her "very progressive" Quaker school education with shaping her ideas.
Cr Kensit worked in the film industry in west Cork before jumping at the opportunity to come to Australia in 1988.
By chance, she met David Kensit through Sydney friends who had travelled to Narrawa, between Crookwell and Boorowa, for a New Year's Eve party. They married in Ireland in 1990.
The couple settled on the Kensit family's Crookwell district sheep grazing property of the past 98 years on Fish River Road.
"The community embraced me from the beginning. They are amazing," Cr Kensit said.
"When your kids start in preschool, you're in there and you're not afraid to roll up your sleeves and get involved."
Following their children's education, she studied a graduate diploma in psychology and a national certificate in counselling, building on her earlier Fine Arts degree at Ireland's National College of Arts.
By 2016, she was ready to tap into her love of lobbying and the ability to make small differences in people's lives. Mrs Kensit successfully stood for council election.
"Once there, I realised there was so much potential to be tapped into and the more I was there, the more I became engrossed," she said.
This year, Cr Kensit topped the poll with 658 primary votes and immediately signalled her intention to stand as mayor.
She had not expected the re-elected John Stafford to resign but his sudden announcement on the day of the mayoral election gave her a clearer run. Cr Kensit defeated Cr Jo Marshall six votes to do for the top job.
Now it's down to business.
"Our demographic has changed so much in the past 10 years," she said.
"I think the majority of people were looking for a new outlook and a wider view. We have learnt so much from the people who went before us and did huge things."
The march of renewable energy is posing opportunity and the new mayor's key goal is to reach net zero emissions by 2030. In the process she hopes to encourage "clean, green" tourism ventures that help to keep youth in the region.
But there are also challenges. Cr Kensit says the Shire has more than enough wind farms and doesn't want more. Nevertheless, she believes the council must work with these companies to derive greater community benefit.
Crookwell and Taralga district residents are up in arms over TransGrid's plans for a 360km 500 kilovolt transmission line, known as HumeLink, running through their areas. They are not opposed to its aim of harnessing more renewable energy or reinforcing electricity supply, but its 65-metre towers and associated infrastructure.
Cr Kensit is backing action groups' push for TransGrid to place the lines underground and doesn't buy the company's argument it is too expensive.
"HumeLink argues that more (wind) turbines can tap into the infrastructure. But we have no intention of getting more," she said.
"Transgrid need to look at going underground. We are not an industrial shire and this (proposal) goes against our strategic plan. I have absolute faith we'll get them to do it but we need to unite because divided we will fall."
The Shire has experienced a large influx of new residents, thanks in part to tree-changers. Cr Kensit said they brought a wealth of talent and new ideas that could benefit the region.
The extensive rural road network, "ageing" infrastructure and state limitations on the rate revenue cap also rate high on her priority list as she leads the council into a new era.
"My leadership style is to be totally inclusive of the entire team and to discuss things as a group. I'm a leader of leaders," Cr Kensit said.
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