2019 POWER 30: Gympie region's most influential people #1-30
CONGRATULATIONS to all of those who have made it on to our 2019 list of the Gympie Region's 30 Most Influential people.
A common criticism upon the release of previous Power 30 lists has been the "deserving" people who missed out. But this list is not about "deserving" people.
It is about the people who exert the most power and influence in our region. People who are movers and shakers, decision makers and shot callers.
They are not necessarily nice or good people; not necessarily people anyone likes. But they have a certain amount of power and influence.
Once again now, we will be offering local residents and readers the chance to have their say on who they think should have had a sport on the Power 30.
You can vote in the poll below that will be open until midnight on Sunday or have your say by commenting on The Gympie Times Power 30 Facebook posts or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
#30 Jason McPherson
SOME people know "Macca" as the charismatic, energetic and enthusiastic boss of Gympie engineering company CPM Engineering, the company that meticulously restored the Rattler locomotive.
In sporting circles, he is the man who resurrected the Gympie Hammers Rugby Union Club from near extinction in 2014. Just yesterday he was named the Queensland Reds Volunteer of the Year.
As president of the Hammers, he has been the driving force in growing junior player numbers in boys and girls.
In 2010, there were 20 players in school rugby in Gympie, last year it was 303 and this year nearly 600 participants who played more than seven games.
There were about 25 under-12 players which trained before the Hammers' reserves and women's home games. Macca hopes to continue this next year as the players learn the basic skills.
Girls school rugby strengthened this season to feature under-13, under-14, under-16 and opens (under-18) sides which the Hammers has piggy backed off.
"We have under-13 boys and girls team and will have an under-15 boys but we are just waiting on confirmation for the 15's girls," he said.
"Our goal is for the teams to play in the Sunshine Coast competition and have the under-15s and under-17s play in seven-a-side matches on a Friday night. We will have them start training in term one next year."
It is not just the junior side of the club that is expanding, the Hammers could return to A-grade footy next year, which the men's side has not played in 14 years.
"We will have a reserve grade colts, women's and men's but if the numbers go right, we could field an A-grade men's team next year," he said.
"I am certain we will have an A-grade team in 2021,but a few players from Fraser Coast have said they would be interested to play A-grade."
It is not just rugby union "Macca" is involved with; he has sponsored trophies and jerseys for junior rugby league's most passionate players for each age group from under-13s to 16s.
"I was never a great player as a child, but it was my passion which kept me going," he said.
Professionally, CPM Engineering is an industry leader and respected local firm.
Like "Macca", CPM values are firmly aligned with growing opportunities within the Gympie region.
Its delivery of the ground-breaking water processing machine Ali-Jak, is testament to this.
The Ali-Jak was invented by "Macca", and is a water treatment machine that converts liquid waste into reusable water.
It will be utilised commercially next year, and CPM will fabricate the Ali-Jak in Gympie, creating employment and helping drive the economy.
The Rattler has been a good project for CPM.
"It combines old fashioned tradesmen skills mixed with new technology. There has been an average of about five staff working on the project," he said.
A CPM apprentice and mature tradesman were given full-time employment through the Rattler restoration project.
# 29 Julie Worth
SHE has been a successful businesswoman for the past three decades, enhancing tourism in the Gympie region and providing a quality charter bus service for Gympie and Mary Valley students.
No two days are ever the same for Julie Worth, second off the rank at Number 29.
Mrs Worth is a mother, wife, businesswoman, volunteer, chairwoman and a proud advocate for tourism in what she describes as the "great part of the world”.
Julie and her husband Jeff established a seafood market, Octopus's Garden in Gympie in 1992.
The Worths helped 100 Gympie students finish their traineeships.
"It was hard work and I got a real buzz out of selling a quality product and setting standards that enabled those trainees to advance their skills,” she said.
From 1994 onwards, the pair ran two businesses - as this was the year Karrabee Bus + Coach was established.
Once their three children had completed high school at Toowoomba Grammar School, they sold the seafood business and decided to "semi-retire” - focusing on just the Karrabee Bus + Coach business.
"In my daily routine I get to wear many different hats. No two are ever the same - which is what I thrive on. I now manage a fleet of buses and 10 team members,” Mrs Worth said.
"We convey school students to Gympie and Mary Valley schools. We also provide buses for charters for sporting, community and private groups and continue to further develop our tour business in the Mary Valley.
"We specialise in Outback Pubs tours in Western Queensland which we have run for 15 years. My passion is Outback tours. It nurtures my spirit.
"For the last seven years we have been conducting Outback Pubs Tours to Birdsville Races. I love it! I love taking people to a place where they wouldn't normally go, outside their comfort zone "to where the dust never settles”.
"In September this year we took 36 wonderful people who we now call friends on a touring party to Birdsville. Those people had the time of their lives. We love creating experiences for people and plan more tours to iconic destinations and I'm having fun doing it.”
Since 2013 Mrs Worth has been a member of the school services committee on the Queensland Bus Industry Council board. QBIC is the peak industry body representing bus and coach operators throughout Queensland.
Mrs Worth volunteers at the Kandanga Country Club which employs seven people. She is also the chairwoman of Mary Valley Inc which is the tourism network which markets Mary Valley Tourism through the branding Mary Valley Country "come out to play.”
On top of her other commitments, she is the secretary of Kandanga Cemetery Association which is doing heaps to improve the facility with the building of an open-air chapel and a complete landscaping plan to be rolled out over the next year.
"In the various roles I played no doubt I have influenced lots of people in business and community,” she said.
"Seeing young trainees build their own skills base and go on with confidence in their chosen fields of further education or great employment roles has been so rewarding.
"In recent times there has been great opportunities to take people off the unemployment lists and gain fulfilling employment.
"In the parts that I have played in community and business I have been able to place a considerable amount of people into roles where they have gained full-time and part-time employment, built self-worth and confidence.”
#28 Thelma Reisenleiter
PASSION to volunteer at an event that her children were competing in soon turned into a life-long commitment for Gympie and District Eisteddfod president Thelma Reisenleiter, who has come in as the 28th most influential person in the Gympie region for 2019.
Mrs Reisenleiter has been at the helm of the Gympie eisteddfod for decades, chairing the organisation for 21 years and steering the direction of the annual week-long event that showcases hundreds of young performers.
She oversees a team of volunteers who are responsible for staging hundreds of performers in piano, instrumental, speech and drama, vocal/choral and dance at the city's Civic Centre. This year people from as far as Mackay, Brisbane, Hervey Bay and Maryborough travelled to compete.
Mrs Reisenleiter, who ran a catering business for 35 years, leads the committee through numerous decisions including adjudication selection, programing, entry co-ordination and scheduling. Her tenacity has ensured the platform has moved with the times, drawing large crowds year after year, while keeping to the tradition and quality the region's eisteddfod, the first ever in Queensland, is known for.
Despite her strong influence and direction over the past decades and major sway in one of Gympie's most significant cultural events, the eisteddfod president insists it's the volunteers who bring the event to life.
"The eisteddfod family is a large family, but the committee is small. It's like a business. I've been very fortunate to be surrounded by such wonderful people who are dedicated to the youth of the community,” she said.
SPORT POWER 20: The most influential people in Gympie sport #1-20
"Being a volunteer is giving back. I think you just have to have a love of helping children to showcase their particular interests in their particular art form. There's no diploma to be a volunteer - just select an area you can be part of in the community. It takes time.
#27 Colleen Miller
COLLEEN Miller is not only the face of the Gympie and Districts Netball Club, she has been an powerful force in growing the sport in this region.
Mrs Miller has come in at #27 on the 2019 list of Gympie's most influential people.
Since taking up netball six years ago, Mrs Miller has been leading the charge as president for two years and has seen local numbers grow to 368 members today.
There has been a jump back into representative netball after a period of Gympie not fielding teams, which has raised the profile of the club in the wider region.
Reaching out to neighbouring netball associations like Maryborough and Noosa has led to Gympie competing in representative carnivals and developing the local umpire program.
Mrs Miller was the driving force behind bringing the former Sunshine Coast Lightning and the New Zealand Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua to Gympie for A Night with Noeline in May.
The event was instigated following a simple conversation Mrs Miller had with the successful coach where she mentioned how A Night With Noeline had a nice ring to it.
Mrs Taurua shared her experiences and there was a Q and A about what made her tick.
Mrs Miller has overseen the strengthening of Gympie's relationship with the Sunshine Coast Lightning. The Lightning's Samsung Ambassador Program was introduced in 2017, with regional clubs allocated one Lightning player as their ambassador, which has been a great inspiration for young Gympie players coming through.
Gympie is allocated six hours with their ambassador and this year it was Maddy McAuliffe who visited twice.
At the club's grand final day, Lightning player Karla Pretorius joined McAuliffe at the junior and representative awards where they did a meet and greet and presented awards to players.
The two visits enabled Gympie players and the general public to catch up with McAuliffe to get to know her a little more.
This has been invaluable for the growth and continued passion for the game.
It is because of this success and drive that Mrs Miller has been included in the list of Gympie's Power 30.
#26 Shereene Moy
IF YOU have passed through the Gympie region school sport system in the past 25 years, chances are you've been lucky enough to know Shereene Moy.
The highly respected Gympie South State School teacher has dedicated herself to coaching for more than 30 years, spending most of that time within the region after transferring here early in her career.
What perhaps says the most about Moy's passion for nurturing and encouraging up-and-coming sporting talent is her role as district secretary of all school sports, in which she co-ordinates between 140 and 160 children in an array of codes.
Her coaching commitments range from cross country, athletics, swimming, boys and girls rugby league and cricket at schools, boys touch, boys and girls rugby league and athletics at the district level.
On top of all that, she is the regional manager for Wide Bay swimming and Wide Bay boys touch.
Even after all her years of hard work, Moy says simply "helping others” is what she loves most about her job.
"I love seeing kids follow their passions and believe in themselves,” she said.
"At no stage would I claim I'm responsible for the success they have, I just do my best to help them along on their pathway.”
Asked to name some of the most gifted young athletes she's ever come across, Moy produced some real gems such as Melbourne Storm star Tino Fa'asuamaleaui, former North Queensland Cowboy Carlin Anderson and professional golfer Charlie Dann.
"Carlin Anderson was very talented, he's one that unfortunately probably hasn't reached his full potential because of injuries,” she said.
"Troy Carlson is a freak. And I saw Tino as a fantastic young district talent, though I didn't have him at Gympie South.
"Charlie Dann is a story I still tell to kids now. He was a tennis player through and through at school, he'd never played golf, but through one of our sporting programs he did a term of golf and look where he is now.
"Again, I'm not claiming responsibility for any of that, but it's nice to give kids that little bit of motivation with their sport.
"I still get former students making the effort to say gidday when they're in town. Tino caught up with me when he was here last. That means a lot to me, that they would make time for a little old PE teacher.”
It is Moy's undying passion for sport, and inspiring Gympie kids to follow their dreams, that earns her a spot on this year's Power 30.
#25 Darren Burns
DARREN Burns is not only the face of Gympie rugby league, he is its driving force.
After a career in the national rugby league that saw him play for the Brisbane Broncos, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Western Suburbs Magpies and the Sydney Roosters, Darren has provided a stable platform of motivation and inspiration to Gympie's aspiring rugby league players in a time where the game, at a regional level is struggling.
He has mandated the consistent presence of rugby league at a school level, which has seen a resurgence of young players in the local junior ranks.
The annual Broncos challenge held between the primary schools in the Gympie region for Years 4 and 5 students headed into its fourteenth year this year.
What started off with six to eight schools fielding teams has expanded to 12 to 14 schools with 10 to 12 teams and has been sustained through Darren's leadership.
As rugby league grows to feature the anticipated women's competition, Burns has been leading the charge in expanding Gympie to include a women's team. The women had a successful season this year, taking out the minor premiership, but going down to the Maroochydore Swans in the grand final.
Darren's influence and mentoring has gone beyond the playing field.
He has worked in conjunction with the Brisbane Broncos to provide education to Gympie region students in everything from domestic violence to healthy eating.
Darren has continued to provide front line leadership as the junior league coaching director to ensure the coaches identify the priorities that need to be focused on, such as making sure the children are having fun, that they are developing as a player and a person, and teaching them the ability and attitude to compete.
He stepped down as Devils' vice-president this season but will have an unofficial role on the seniors committee to lend a hand and advice as necessary.
It has been Burns' intricate knowledge of league administration that has helped keep the game alive and thriving in a region with a proud rugby league heritage.
#24 Cindy Vogels
FOR the second year in a row the Devoted Milliner, Cindy Vogels, holds a spot in the Power 30, this time at number 24.
The dynamic single mum of four hit the headlines when one of her unique hat designs was worn by fashionista Lady Gaga in 2014.
Ms Vogels' influence comes from her connections in the fashion, music and art world and she held a position in Gympie Regional Council as Arts and Cultural Ambassador from March 2015 to July last year.
Her business, The Devoted Milliner, has evolved into Racy and Lucky, a designer clothing label that caters to emerging female artists in the music industry and as of April is now available online to the general public.
And it has proven to be great exposure, with Cindy's designs featured in 18 nationally and internationally published magazines.
Her most recent project was Space Girls, an innovative series of music and art festivals exclusively featuring the work of female artists and musicians. This work, in conjunction with arts powerhouse Jazmyn Smith, has had a number of events to date, which have been well received locally and is a future focus for the busy mum.
Recently her Collab A Nation art project was also making waves in the art community.
It shines a spotlight on all the behind-the-scenes creatives and turns their work into a performance piece of art.
Collab A Nation has been embraced by the artistic community, especially on the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane, with a precursor to the format used to help open the Brisbane Art Prize in 2016 at the Judith Wright Centre and Collab A Nation opening the Australian Wearable Art Festival at Eumundi last August.
Ms Vogels says that in everything she does, her family is always behind her, with her parents providing her a creative space and room for a distribution centre at their home and her children her inspiration.
"We all only have one shot at this and I want to show my children that when it gets tough, you have to give it everything you have.”
#23 Indiana Hehir
SHE only turned 17 this March, but hard-working and fearlessly passionate Gympie student Indiana Hehir has already taken the lead in helping young Australians find a voice in the national social and political conversation.
The soon-to-be James Nash State High School graduate accepted the role of a lifetime last year when she was chosen out of more than 450 applicants as one of this year's eight UNICEF Australia Young Ambassadors.
That opportunity saw Indiana spend six months visiting schools in Gympie and as far north as Bundaberg, making her contribution to the overall YA goal of consulting face to face with more than 1500 children and young people from preschool age to young adulthood.
She determined government action to attack climate change and improved access to mental health resources and facilities were among local youth's primary concerns, which largely translated on the national scale.
Indiana helped combine the consultations with a national survey targeted at children aged between 14 and 17 to come up with UNICEF's 2019 Youth Ambassador report A Climate for Change, which was presented to 50 Australian politicians in Canberra last month, including Wide Bay MP Llew O'Brien and Tanya Plibersek.
The journey helped Indiana progress some of her personal goals, like beginning a university degree in global studies next year.
"Growing up in a rural country town like Gympie I was always aware of issues that mattered to me, but I was never asked what I thought or to be a part of the conversation,” she said.
"Being a Young Ambassador meant I got the opportunity to speak with Gympie's young people, and young people outside Gympie, to ask them what matters to them.
"I wanted to encourage kids to take that opportunity to speak, to question things, to object to things.
"I also learned the power of listening. I can share my story as much as I want, but actually sitting back and listening to someone, taking in what they're saying and being open to them is a powerful tool to help us make change.”
Her UNICEF role ended upon the production of A Climate for Change and her meetings in Canberra, but Indiana says she's keen to remain active as an alumni for the organisation she loves and admires.
Indiana's outstanding contribution to both Gympie and Australia's youth, social and cultural sectors means she well and truly earns her keep as the youngest member of the 2019 Power 30 list.
#22 Garry Davison
GARRY Davison is Gympie born and bred (on both sides of his family) and he married a Gympie girl, Jenny.
The Gympie region has been a big part of what makes him like he is - interested in many things and hard-working, possibly as a consequence of his varied interests.
Community work runs in the family too. His father, a prisoner of war on the Thai-Burma railway line, returned to Gympie and volunteered for the POW Association and the RSL.
"We came back in 1982 and bought the general store which then existed in Mellor St.
"I ran for council in '85 and '88 and was successful both times.”
In 1991, I ran for mayor against Mick Venardos and Joan Dodt. If it had been a horse race the result would have been fine. You don't mind coming third in a horse race.”
He started at Jobmatch and was its original manager when it first opened its doors here in 1992.
"We started with four employees and we now have 30 in offices here and in Kingaroy.”
It's a job he retired from last Friday, October 11.
Mr Davison has also been involved with the Rattler for many years.
Before starting with Jobmatch he was mainly active in the disability field, helping people with handicaps find employment.
"I'm on the board of Disabilities Employment Australia and we try to find vocations for people with all kinds of challenges in life.
"One of our big achievements was to remove the cap on federal funding for disability services, so people do not have to wait in line for their turn.
"We worked for 10 years to get aid uncapped and that happened in 2007.”
A big job is education of the community because it's not the disability that is the challenge some time, it's getting the community accept people who have abilities that can be harnessed.
President and Vice President of Disabilities Employment Australia, he has recently been inducted into the organisation's Hall of Fame.
"There are only about 12 or 14 so far, so I am very honoured.
"We try to bring value to the community by bringing out the best in the abilities of our clients.
"Albert Einstein had dyslexia, so it's not the disability that holds people back, it's the attitude of the community.
"In retirement I think I'll get involved in the Rattler more as a volunteer and trainee.
"Maybe even learn to drive a train,” he said.
#21 Dean Comerford
DEBUTING in the Power 30 in #21 spot and providing spiritual inspiration is Pastor Dean Comerford.
He is the shepherd to about 300 parishioners in his non-denominational organisation, the Gympie Community Church, which Pastor Comerford says has the largest congregation outside of the Catholic community in Gympie.
In addition to ministering to his flock, Pastor Comerford works closely with other ministers as secretary to the Gympie Minister's Network.
"We call it Gympie Combined Churches because that makes it clear to people what it is,” Pastor Comerford said.
He and all the ministers work together to achieve projects such as delivering joint services and prayer meetings, running religious instruction in the schools and supporting and helping chaplaincy programs in the region.
He said the organisation also had a deep interest in spreading the message via 91.5FM Cooloola Christian Radio and providing financial and moral support to charitable organisations such as Hope Reins, an organisation which uses rescued horses to help vulnerable members of the community to overcome personal hardships.
Pastor Comerford said his highest profile work was helping to organise Gympie's Christmas in the Park event each year.
The popular event has been steadily growing over the 10 years that Pastor Comerford has been involved, with 5000-6000 people from all walks of life attending the last event.
Pastor Comerford said his role as chairman of the Christmas in the Park committee made him part of a chain of hard working people from different churches who all pulled together to make the event a success.
This combined approach gels well with his ethos.
"After all,” he said, "the scripture says we should be united in mind and thought.”
#20 Kathy Little Walker
GYMPIE Regional Forum Facebook page creator Kathy Little Walker is the most divisive figure on this year's list, but there is no denying the impact she has had on council coverage.
Making her Power 30 debut, the Gympie-born Mrs Walker has spent the past four years fighting for change at the local government level, and said any animosity aimed at her was water off a duck's back.
"I know the ones who revile me, they tell me so,” she said.
"I don't care because it's not to do with me.”
Her interest in council started with ex-planning officer Jill Promnitz, who was found by the Queensland Industrial Court to have been unlawfully sacked by the Gympie Regional Council, and escalated after former head of planning Mike Hartley was cleared of criminal fraud charges in 2014.
"That was disgusting,” she said.
"But it was mainly Jill to start with.”
Mrs Walker's wider concerns about the modern council climate have proven to be grounded in reality; in the past four years, local government has been embroiled in the worst cluster of integrity scandals in its history.
This includes the sacking of the Ipswich and Logan councils, the conviction of ex-Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale for extortion, and Pisasale's replacement Andrew Antoniolli's conviction for fraud.
Through the GRF, she has forged links with the Queensland Local Government Reform Alliance (which held its AGM in Gympie in 2017) and council candidates for other regions, including Jannean Dean and Gary Duffy.
And she said it's not about being anti-Gympie council, but against the modern local government climate. She points to the resignation of outspoken Noosa councillor Ingrid Jackson last week as the latest example.
"We're not going to have this any more,” she said.
#19 Glen Hartwig
OUTSPOKEN Division 2 councillor Glen Hartwig makes his first appearance on Gympie's Power 30, having garnered a swell of support for his continued challenging of the local government status quo.
The ex-police officer and Gympie businessman's continued stand for more transparency has proven prescient: he flagged the Rattler's final blown-out cost as nearer to $20 million than $10 million more than six months before the final figure was established ($17.1 million when the train started running, and other payments followed).
He has also been vocal about challenges presented by the council's planning department - a department now being reviewed by the council to improve the process for developers - and questioned the council's ongoing spending habits, a topic under more scrutiny as the council continues to run budgets at an operational deficit (including next year's, at least three have been in the red from 2015-2020).
The circumstances surrounding the departure of former head council engineer and now-Cr Bob Fredman in 2016, and the controversial overhaul of Gympie's water services have been an ongoing concern for Cr Hartwig - issues exposed to a new light following the release of a controversial water report through the Right to Information Act.
In his own division, Cr Hartwig has helped establish the new Curra Hall ,the Curra MX Bike Park, an upgrade to Anderleigh Rd and improvements to Gunalda's heart through the Our Towns program.
His position on council matters has made him a target for critics; it has also garnered him a backing he hopes to translate into a successful mayoral bid at the March 28, 2020 election.
#18 Sue Manton
SITTING in the number 18 spot is the business manager at Little Haven Palliative Care, Sue Manton.
Although preferring to be out of the spotlight, Sue's power lies in her ability to inspire and motivate those around her.
Sue attributes a great deal of the success of the organisation not to herself but to her team of hard-working staff and countless volunteers.
However, as the public face of this organisation, her influence is undeniable.
It is through her influence and the lobbying and champion work that Sue and her team have been able to secure additional funding.
The community care model that Little Haven adopts for all of its clients and it is a method that has been recognised by Qld Health and independent assessors as the very best care model available in community care anywhere.
Again, Sue would attribute this to her team of staff and volunteers, but she is the glue that holds the machine together.
Her role is very much to make it sustainable, something she has consistently done for the past 18 years and with the additional funding, this is a goal she and the organisation are much closer to attaining, all while tending to downplay her involvement.
"That's the ultimate goal of any organisation, isn't it, to make sure it endures long after you're gone?" she said.
#17 Gregg Davey
GREGG Davey has been the officer-in-charge of Gympie police since 2014.
The good natured former chief detective walked through the doors of the Police Academy in Brisbane in 1986 and was given his first posting in Rockhampton after being sworn in as a Constable in September 1987.
In that time, he has seen the best and worst of metropolitan and regional police work, from mobile patrols in Brisbane, an appointment to South Brisbane CIB in 1991 and a 1998 return to his favourite part of the world; that is, this part of the world.
"The role of a police officer is very challenging and you never know what duties you could be tasked each day," he said.
"Some of the greatest impacting jobs include, child abuse, sexual assaults, serious assaults including homicides, fatal and serious injury traffic crashes and mental health.
Mr Davey said his role as OIC is to ensure the Gympie police station is performing to a high standard and making the community a safer place to live.
"The first thing I do every morning is to review the previous 24hr (72hrs on a Monday) offence stats, traffic outputs an domestic and family violence reports," he said.
"My primary responsibilities are for general duties/uniform functions within the Gympie Division - we have an approved staff strength with the uniform numbers fluctuating with the presence of First Year Constables assigned for training - we currently have 48 general duties officers and 7 administrative staff.
"My responsibilities include the overall management of the station which has a 24hr Watch house. The Station also houses areas for the CIB, CPIU, Prosecutions, Scenes of Crime, Intelligence Unit and Communications staff.
"Upon taking up the position of OIC Gympie my review identified 'domestic and family violence' as my priority. I am very happy with the work that that has taken place in that space.
"A designated Domestic and Family Violence Coordinator was appointed from the operational staff and a civilian case worker was placed into an office at the station to allow closer interaction with us and the ability to have immediate co-response."
Mr Davey said there has been some rewarding moments in his career such as the Drug Squad Op Prop 2 in North Queensland where he was part of a team that dismantled a large and sophisticated drug production and trafficking ring that involved international connections.
"I hope that everyone finds me approachable. I pride myself on being honest and I continually tell people in our conversations and discussions that they may not like or agree with my view," he said.
Mr Davey said he believes his officers have done well at targeting crime in the Gympie region.
"Gympie Station staff are very dedicated, competent and professional," he said.
"Gympie seems to get a bad rap in relation to crime - do we have it, of course we do (just like everywhere else).
"The collective great work by all of the units/sections within the patrol ensure that we have a high clear-up and that we implement the best practices to prevent and address spikes in offending behaviour.
"Crime numbers can increase as our population increases - the stark reality is we are one the best regions to live in the State and our cost of living is affordable so growth is inevitable.
"Recent trends have offenders from neighbouring regions moving into the area and committing crime. This causes immediate spikes in our figures but over the years we have had the ability to address and remove these offenders.
"What we must remember is that we rely heavily upon the community to assist and work with us."
#16 Chris Callaghan
GYMPIE Magistrate Chris Callaghan deals with criminal cases across the Gympie region, handing out punishments to wrong-doers.
Mr Callaghan is ranked Number 16 in the Gympie region's Most Influential of 2019, down four spots from #12 in 2018.
Mr Callaghan came from private practice as a criminal defence lawyer, defending some serious criminals. He was admitted in 1980 to practice as a solicitor on the Sunshine Coast.
He went to the Bar in Brisbane in 1991 until 1995, and was a solicitor/advocate primarily in the criminal courts until his appointment as a magistrate in 2007.
In addition to sitting on the Gympie courtroom bench, Mr Callaghan is in charge of keeping the wheels of the law turning over a huge regional area.
In fact, he runs the show when it comes to justice from Hervey Bay and Maryborough to Caloundra and west to Kingaroy, administering a system that handles 3500 matters a year, or about 70 cases a week.
"I and my colleagues send people to jail regularly when the situation requires it, but at the end of the day, our job is to protect the community, Mr Callaghan has said in the past.
"And sometimes the community is better off if a person doesn't go to jail.
"For instance if they've got a job, they're doing well and you can tell they're stable and making progress and contributing to the community.
"Do I want to send them to jail, pull them out of the job and then ultimately return them to society, desperate for money, idle and depressed?
Mandatory sentencing is part of what he calls a "tough on crime auction” that over-simplifies the issues. "You can't have 'one size fits all',” he says.
Some penalties, including jail and even mandatory loss of a driver's licence, can have devastating consequences.
"It's different in Brisbane and the Gold Coast, where people can take public transport. But how is a farm worker going to get to work without a licence?
"Someone moves house, doesn't get their mail and misses a payment on their SPER account, they can lose their licence.” And in the regions, he says that often means they lose their jobs, hurting the whole community.”
#15 Jody and Brendan Allen
THE other half of Gympie's famous Stay at Home Mum brand, Brendan Allen has joined his famous wife Jody Allen on this year's Power 30 list.
Together, the powerhouse couple operate contemporary parenting website Stay at Home Mum from their Pie Creek home.
It's an online empire that garners at least 900, 000 unique views a month peaking in December and January at more than one million unique views.
The parenting brand also has an ever-growing social media presence with 500, 000.
Struggling to feed her young family on the back of a redundancy, the website was born when Jody began blogging her money saving tips from home.
Online viewers around the nation soon fell in love with Jody's honest take on parenthood and her caterpault to popularity soon followed.
Brendan, a major driving force in the company's direction cemented the couple's growing influence when he joined the helm.
His natural hand at business led him to his current board role this year on the Gympie Chamber of Commerce, where as technology director he pens the fortnightly chamber column.
The Chamber currently has 115 members, a 30% increase from last year.
The Allen's brand reached new heights when Jody began appearing on network TV with stints on Today Tonight, A Current Affair and The Today Show. She will have two appearances this month.
Last year Allen joined forces with Queensland rural lobby group AgForce when she became the ambassador for the Every Family Needs a Farmer campaign
The mumtrepreneur can also add published author to her profile with four books published so far with Penguin and another "How To Start a Business From Home” to follow soon. The $50 Weekly Shop is a multiple bestseller.
Ever expanding and evolving, the business is carving out a spot in the education, mentoring and partnering space.
"We are working on some projects with strategic partners that will help change the lives of women recovering from cancer - it's early days but such a wonderful project,” Mr Allen said.
Last year, the Allens launched a digital marketing agency - Tenacious Digital with SAHM's Nic Millard, that offers website building and education mentoring.
Inundated with buisness seeking their help on how to learn the ropes of online promotion, the business has now focused their services on education with the mantra: "Teaching people to fish is far better than feeding them fish,” Mr Allen said.
"We have refined our offerings to website building with a focus on education and mentoring,” Mr Allen said.
"We have built sites for people all over the country including Canberra based wedding supplier LaSposa and local member Tony Perrett.
"We have continued down the education path hosting Facebook training seminars with the wonderful people at Entrepreneurship Facilitators.
"Education and training is the focus of TD moving forward.”
#14 Aunty Lillian Burke
ABORIGINAL elder, Aunty Lillian Burke was one of the top four nominees for Queensland's Senior Australian of the Year in 2019 and has been named a Senior Fellow of the University of the Sunshine Coast.
She reluctantly admits to personal pride at the recognition that has started coming her way, but says the real reward comes from the work itself, hours every day up to six days a week, helping Aboriginal people in the near-Gympie area.
The work she does helps pass on to others the benefits she gained from her adopted grandmother, who helped her understand her culture and identity when she was young.
In her Senior Australian of the Year nomination, she is described as a tireless and inspirational champion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people Her university Fellowship recognises her work encouraging young Aboriginal people to take on a university education.
She has participated in 100 boards, committees and consultancy groups. She is president of Cooloola Aboriginal Services and Gympie State High School adopted elder and mentor. She also runs Gympie's annual NAIDOC celebrations, Sorry Day and other significant events.
And she has helped Aboriginal rangers on Fraser Island to develop a cultural heritage database, part of her work with the island's Indigenous Advisory Committee.
The CV goes on:Aunty Lillian is an Elder of the Butchulla language group and has connections to the Kabi Kabi people of Gympie region. Born in Bundaberg, she was brought up at Cherbourg by an adopted grandmother who taught her Aboriginal traditions, law and the skills of living off the land.
She became part of the stolen generation when authorities intervened "for her own good” and refused to allow her contact with her adopted nana. But her work since has tended to focus on repairing that damage and passing on the knowledge, so young Aboriginal people can feel their own connection to culture and the confidence that goes with knowing who you are and where you come from. Her ongoing influence, including the future achievements she encourages in the young people she works with, makes her truly one of the most influential people in Gympie Region.
#13 Tom and Lyn Grady
AN ICONIC Gympie family with as much passion for their community as their real estate and livestock business, the Gradys ranked number 13 of the region's 2019 most influential.
Tom and Lyn Grady, both Gympie region locals, have been involved in real estate for close to four decades, opening Tom Grady Real Estate in Monkland St, Gympie in 1980, where they sold houses, farms and also conducted machinery auctions.
In 1986, Tom and Lyn purchased Gene Barker Livestock and operated the livestock in conjunction with the real estate business, and for many years sold about 40,000 head of livestock per year.
Two years later, the Gradys purchased their premises at 155 Mary St and included rural merchandise in their expanding business.
When Tom was just starting out in the business as a 17-year-old, he joined Elders Livestock in 1962, in Gympie, where he sold cattle, pigs and calves.
He married Lyn in 1968, and moved to Texas on the Queensland border with Elders, selling cattle, sheep and rural merchandise.
They were at Texas for seven years, five of which Tom was branch manager.
Their two daughters Sharyn and Juanita were born in Texas.
Their son Jason was born in 1978.
Today, the Gradys operate two top Combined Rural Traders (CRT) stores on Tozer and Nash Sts, with 15 employees. Jason manages the rural stores.
The real estate business has 10 employees and has sold thousands of properties since 1980. Sharyn and Juanita are also involved with the running of the businesses.
Tom and Lyn don't consider themselves to be "influential” but merely giving back to those who have supported them.
They are proud sponsors of many events in the Gympie region, including the Gympie Show and fireworks, Kilkivan Great Horse Ride and Angel LifeFlight.
"The Gradys thank all their clients for their loyal support over such a long period,” Mr Grady said.
#12 Marlene Owen
MARLENE Owen jokes that she was born and bred in Gympie and is still saving up for the ticket out.
But the truth is more a story of community commitment from a woman who has dedicated much of what would otherwise have been her own time to serving the people of Gympie region.
And that means everybody, not just the high profile people and causes she has been involved in over the years.
"I love our community,” she said .
"It gives me great joy to work with the community and some of the best people you could meet.
"My biggest charitable interest is my involvement in Supporting Chemotherapy in Cooloola, along with drought aid to the Longreach area and, lately, to the south as well, wherever the seemingly endless drought has hit farmers across the inland.
"We bring the kids from up north to Rainbow Beach so they can have a day at the beach.
"Some of them have never been to the beach before. They've never seen that much water. Some of them have probably never seen rain.
"I feed the homeless at night,” she said.
"I cook meals we can distribute wherever homeless people are forced to live.
"And I am involved at the moment in lots of meetings with other groups to tie together help for homeless people, especially raisng money to organise a permanent emergency accommodation facility, to get them off the streets.
"So I'm having lots of meetings with different organisations. First we had to ascertain, with evidenc, that thre was a homelessness problem in Gympie. Well we know there is now.
"Sadly, it's going to be a long slow process, but we'll get there.
"But SCIS is my mainpriority.
"Oh, yes,” she added, "We (her and husband Gordon) also run a business.”
#11 Scott Kovacevic
THE Gympie Times' political specialist has been compared to a "terrier” for his dogged pursuit of truth and accountability, but its an attitude that pays off.
In his time with the paper, his work has included dragging the report which sparked the council's controversial water service overhaul from behind its wall of secrecy and laying bare the finer details of the council's blow out-plagued Rattler return.
A darkly satirical sense of humour has become a trademark of his opinion pieces, as determination is to his research and reporting.
Mr Kovacevic honed his research skills through six years of university study, spread across three different degrees.
He is now the proud owner of three pieces of paper - a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre, First Class Honours in Theatre, specifically comedy, and a Masters in Journalism and Communication - which are all now in a cupboard collecting dust at the same rate his HELP debt escalates.
Born in Armidale, New South Wales, his background is a mongrel of country and city lifestyle, having also lived in Hervey Bay, Taree and on the Gold Coast. And it is the same story for his career experience.
This spans industries including fast food, retail, stand-up comedy, six years as an entertainer and suit character performer at Dreamworld and two years managing Griffith University's theatre at its Gold Coast campus.
As a piece of advice for politicians and other community leaders, he says it's easier to convince people of your argument if you have one and if you communicate it to people, talking, consulting, keeping people informed - general accountability.
"The nature of people is you can probably convince them if your argument is strong. If people feel they are part of the process, they are more likely to accept a decision.”
He comes in at #11 on this year's Power 30 list, moving up eight spots.
#10 Julie Williams
RETAINING her place inside the top 10 of this year's Power 30 list is agricultural champion Julie Williams, who continues to be a force for positivity in the industry as chief executive of her family business AgSolutions Australia.
AgSolutions' 30th year - and Mrs Williams' 17th involved - has seen the celebration of new milestones and an unwavering commitment to drought-affected clients going through tough times.
With 43 employees on board, Mrs Williams has endeavoured to continue AgSolutions as one of the country's leading animal and soil supplement companies alongside husband Andrew as chief executive, brother Jason Zerner as production manager and cousin Gary Zerner as sales manager.
Prioritising the well-being of the wider AgSolutions family has been a clear focus for the 43-year-old this year.
"It has been a rough year and mental health can be a big issue for farmers going through tough times," she said.
"We want to make sure we look after our clients, it's really important."
Perhaps the biggest milestone for Mrs Williams in 2019 has been her involvement as a committee member for the Federal Government's Regional Development Australia network, in the Wide Bay Burnett, wherein she works with all levels of government, business and community groups to support the economic development of the region.
She also remains one of just eight industry representatives on the advisory board of the State Government's Manufacturing Ministerial Committee chaired by MP Cameron Dick, where she works to ensure continued growth and global competitiveness in the manufacturing sector.
But her work doesn't end there - Mrs Williams serves as the Cooloola Christian College board chair and sits on the board at Hope Reins.
#9 Nolan Family
THEY are stalwarts of the Gympie region business world, proudly carrying on the legacy their parents worked so hard to create.
Sixty-one years has seen a small family butcher shop transition to the global meat production powerhouse it is now yet remain community-minded, with plans to grow bigger still.
That's why Pat and Marie Nolan's three sons Terry, Tony and Michael keep their spot in the 2019 top 10 most influential - 70years on from the beginning of Pat's apprenticeship in an Apollonian Vale butcher shop in 1945.
Nolan Meats are more far-reaching than ever as producers, distributors and exporters of quality meat products all over the world, all the while keeping their headquarters at East Deep Creek.
In December this year the company will embark on a major $12 million expansion to be rolled out at the facility over the next 18 months.
The expansion, which includes $4.97million in Federal Government funding, is expected to create 200 jobs and 45 more during construction.
Another recent big-scale addition at their East Deep Creek facility is their Dematic automated storage and retrieval system, which forms part of their multimillion-dollar cold store and distribution facility, commissioned to create a highly efficient, world-class meat cold chain system.
With more than 400 full-time staff on the books, the Nolans are known as one of the largest local employers in the region, with their products sampled in 30 countries including Japan, Korea, US, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Among their workforce are 62 high school students who work part-time two afternoons a week to gain valuable work skills.
Some of those will proudly boast Certificate II or III Portable Meat Trade qualifications at the same time as completing their senior school certificates.
Nolan Meats are steadfast in their support of local farmers, giving them access to overseas markets by buying local cattle, and their "Private Selection" signature brand of beef has been branded through Woolworths and featured at famous venues like the Breakfast Creek Hotel.
Ever present in the community they love, all three Nolan brothers actively participate in industry and community organisations to try to improve and promote the Gympie region.
The Nolans continue to sponsor the Muster Cup, which is the biggest race day on Gympie Turf Club's calendar, along with long-term sponsorships of the Gympie Show Society.
Just last week they donated a steer for auction at the Breakfast Creek Hotel, which made $20,000 for Drought Angels to assist communities devastated by drought.
Their ongoing efforts to support and promote the region mean the Nolan family will remain one of the Gympie business sector's most important factors for a long time to come.
#8 Andrew "Aussie” Corbet
AS THE huge success of Gympie-based transport giant Corbet's Group continues to grow, so does the influence of the company's general manager Andrew "Aussie” Corbet.
The forward-thinking leader has jumped from 24th position last year into Gympie's Power 30 Top 10 this year - a reflection of his principal role in driving the expansion and diversification of the company that is a key player in the economic future of the region.
Originally a sawmill and engineering business, the family-owned enterprise has evolved over 40 years into one of the largest Australian multi-industry companies; now operating in transport, land clearing, water processing, storage, equipment hire and landscape supplies.
Last year a new quarry in the Mary Valley that was unsuccessfully appealed in the Planning and Environment Court was added to Corbet's Group developments which span into western Queensland.
It created 10-12 site jobs and up to 30 daily subcontracting positions - taking the company's workforce to just under 400 employees including FIFO workers to major mining sites. A concrete plant opening within a month on the same site will further increase staff numbers.
In transport, the A-double road train fleet was expanded to four in the past year after Mr Corbet fought state and federal government to get the trucks on the road last June - a move that is leading the way in haulage capability in Queensland.
Corbet's Group runs the only A-double road trains in Queensland north of Gympie, Mr Corbet said. The rest of their 120-truck fleet runs from Melbourne to north Queensland.
Mr Corbet, who has skilfully diversified the business at any viable opportunity, credits the company's success to his loyal staff.
"We wouldn't have got anywhere unless we had good people. That's really the key.”
Corbet's Group sponsorship continues to boost Gympie rugby league and motor racing.
#7 Tony Goodman
TONY Goodman is a familiar face on the Power 30, last year ranking at number 29.
This year, his first as president of the Gympie Chamber of Commerce, sees him climbing the ranks to the number 7 spot.
He said he would like to see the role of the Chamber to become more of an advocacy for Gympie business.
"You can get online and find tutorials on how to build your business but Gympie businesses don't really have a voice. The Chamber could become that, to ensure that the interests of the business community are promoted," he said.
There are three main goals of the Chamber, Tony revealed, all designed to "create jobs, jobs and more jobs," he said.
The first is to entice larger industry to the area. The second is to develop an independent review into creating a more user friendly local planning department and the third is to work closely with Gympie Regional Council on their economic development plan to help facilitate more industrial and commercial growth in the region.
He hopes to do this with close consultation with other people with an interest in the Gympie business community.
"We want to listen to the business community and formulate our three goals around that," he said.
Tony has a background in business development with his role with the Real Estate Industry of Queensland.
He also owned two successful real estate agencies in Caboolture before moving to the Gympie region in 2004.
As a Gympie businessman Tony is passionate about promoting Mary St to locals and visitors alike.
After buying his centrally located business, Bella Casa, soon after, Tony became a member of the Gympie Town Centre Stakeholder Reference Group.
It was also through his prompting the regular Mary St events began five years ago.
The man with the plan to see regular events in Mary St adopted with some kind of permanency is delighted the Gympie Regional Council has embraced the concept.
The quarterly events are now regularly attended by thousands of people and take place close to Easter, mid-winter and two nights in the fortnight before Christmas.
"A strong, dynamic and vibrant town centre sends psychological ripples out into the community," he said.
#6 Bernard Smith
AS THE chief executive officer of the Gympie Regional Council, Bernard Smith holds the purse strings to a $100 million budget generated by 50,000 potential ratepayers who populate 7000km squared.
Mr Smith is head of one of the largest employers in the region and oversees the day-to-day business operations and management of 500 council staff members.
"It's an incredibly diverse organisation - if you look at the professions we have in terms of staff - you would struggle to find another industry that would be so diverse," Mr Smith said.
"That makes it incredibly interesting and rewarding."
His unique and influential role is essential to the delivery of council services to the community, and transcends to co-operating with external stakeholders of local industry and other levels of government.
A civil engineer by profession, Mr Smith undertook a range of roles at the City of Berwick in Melbourne's outer east before going to the City of Sandringham in Melbourne in a director level position.
Following amalgamations in Victoria, Mr Smith was then appointed as director of environmental services at the newly created City of Greater Bendigo.
In 2000, he was appointed general manager of Port Macquarie Hastings Council, a position he held until 2008, before moving to Gympie in 2011, when he was appointed CEO of the GRC.
Mr Smith relies on a broad base of experience and the ability to put things in perspective to meet the demands of the role, he said.
"It's very important in this day and age to be very calm and considered and be able to communicate."
He is also driven by the great satisfaction that comes with the high-responsibility role, he said.
"Local government is a very noble cause.
"Every single staff member aims to make the region a better place - it is one of the most satisfying things of the role and that is what has kept me in local government and in particular regional local government.
"Living in Gympie and seeing the residents enjoy what the council's provided - the facilities and infrastructure - is great to be a part of."
#5 Shelley Strachan
GYMPIE Times editor Shelley Strachan has jumped up the list again this year from #7 to #5 of the region's most influential.
The two-times winning editor of the Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Area Community News Brand of the Year and 2018 recipient of the News Corp Achievements in Regional Journalism award has been at the helm of The Gympie Times for four years.
The Gympie Times is the undisputed primary source of local and regional news from Tiaro and Bauple in the north, to the Mary Valley in the south, Kilkivan, Goomeri and Tansey in the west, Rainbow Beach, Tin Can Bay and Cooloola Cove in the east and all places in between.
From its multiple platforms - print, website, ePaper, social media - it tells the news of the day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including local council, crime, court, sport, rural, business and education, the victories, achievements and struggles of local residents, breaking news and so much more.
In April 2018, the Federal Government bowed to a strategic campaign from The Gympie Times and Wide Bay MP Llew O'Brien to fast track construction of the $1 billion Gympie Bypass. The 26km project will start later this year or in early 2020, four years earlier than first mooted and a move that will save at least 50 lives, boost the local economy and increase investment.
Last August, The Gympie Times beat out The Gold Coast Bulletin and Townsville Bulletin to win the News Corp Australia 2018 Achievements in Regional Journalism Award, Ms Strachan flying to Sydney to accept the gong at a dinner attended by Lachlan and Rupert Murdoch.
For four of the last six years, The Gympie Times has been named News Media Community News Brand of the Year, and for six out of six years, including this year, has been a finalist.
Ms Strachan is an alumni of James Nash State High School. She is a loud and passionate advocate for the region and a respected daily editor in the News Corp Australia stable, which has a national print audience of 12.3 million people, a digital audience of 12.2 million and a mobile (phone) audience of 7 million.
The Gympie Times itself is read by more than 32,000 people each week, has a weekly online audience of more than 40,000, and a Facebook following of more than 20,000. Four out of five people in the region read The Gympie Times.
#4 Tony Perrett
FROM bridges to schools and even trade, the State Opposition spokesman for agricultural industry development, fisheries and forestry has been busy in the past year.
Gympie MP Tony Perrett's ability to move and shake has been hampered by the LNP's role in opposition to the government, but he has still made a mark.
He has been a vocal fighter for farmers and the agricultural industries on the State's controversial vegetation and fisheries management policies and proposed Great Barrier Reef regulations.
His five-year fight to bring USC to an empty building at Gympie's TAFE also came to a head in the new year, with a lease for the building finally signed, sealed and delivered.
Long fought-for upgrade work to the Bruce Highway north of Gympie and the Coondoo Creek bridge were started, too.
Mr Perrett was also selected to take part in a joint delegation to China to investigate the country's practises in agriculture and infrastructure, including the vaunted Very fast Train long proposed for Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast.
#3 Deb Frecklington
STATE Opposition leader Deb Frecklington has always been in the business of improving people's lives, starting with how they dress.
Her first job led to her being Fletcher Jones' youngest ever qualified female men's suit fitter.
"I went to university, obtained a Bachelor of Business and sold advertising for the Western Star newspaper in Roma, .Basically I sold things,from after-market car products to insurance. I did a law degree and my husband and I managed broadacre properties in Queensland and New South Wales. That was when I had three children.
"When we moved to Kingaroy, I had my own law firm and developed an interest in politics, largely because I saw a need. I started with the South Burnett Suicide Prevention Group and I saw so much desperation, among men in particular and a real disconnect among government services, like the police, hospitals and courts.
"I worked to gather the services together so people would know where to go. That group's still going. I also could never understand why our region didn't have the same road funding as everywhere else around us.”
Now she has the responsibility of holding the Government of Queensland to account, as Opposition leader.
#2 Mick Curran
GYMPIE Mayor Mick Curran's fourth year at the head of the council continued the trend of major work being unveiled within the region.
Cr Curran's council has delivered a slew of projects in the past year, including the first full year of operations for the historic Mary Valley Rattler, stage two of the extremely popular River to Rail Trail, construction of the Gympie Youth Hub and Kilkivan Equestrian Centre.
The council is also credited with playing a key role in bringing Laminex on board at the old Carter Holt Harvey site when its shut-down loomed and resolving the five-year fight over the empty Tafe building.
But perhaps his most understated achievement may be bringing Aussie rock icon Jimmy Barnes to Gympie to help celebrate the region's 150th birthday in a record-breaking concert in 2017.
His political impact extends outside the region too - Cr Curran sits as the chair of the Wide Bay Burnett Region of Councils.
And there is a swathe of work still under way: a regional RV strategy, a possible industrial mega-hub near Kybong and the future of Gympie's saleyards to name a few.
All told it is an extensive list and one not without critics, who argue the list of achievements has come at a financial cost higher than the community can afford.
It is an argument Cr Curran has refuted on multiple occasions, saying the previously high reserve levels were failing the community on two levels - lost opportunity and not providing value for money to the ratepayer.
And he continues to stand by the region's rate rises as being among the lowest since amalgamation, despite outpacing CPI.
His run as the council's leader is the lateststep in a public service career spanning more than three decades.
This includes an extensive run with the Queensland Police Service in uniform, investigative and managerial roles.
He received the Bravery Medal from governor-general at the time Peter Cosgrove in 2016.
Cr Curran said his unhappiness with Gympie's reputation outside Queensland was a driving force behind his decision to step into politics in 2012.
His goal was to make the region and city Queensland's place to be.
The award-winning Gympie Aquatic Centre and Smithfield St upgrades sit alongside the council's achievements under Cr Curran sincehe took over from the late Ron Dyne in 2015 after winning a hotly contested by-election.
He was re-elected more comfortably in 2016.
#1 Llew O'Brien
THE fourth year of Llew O'Brien's vision for Gympie is well under way - and not only will it look different when he's done, there has already been significant change now.
In the past year alone the Nationals MP has added infrastructure work on the Bruce Highway at Chatsworth and the Coondoo Creek Bridge to his list of achievements.
The creation of Gympie Headspace and support for Little Haven Palliative Care and MRI at Gympie Radiology are some of the social welfare goals ticked off his to-do list.
His ability to make a political dent did not stop there though.
Mr O'Brien successfully pressured the Federal Government into holding a Royal Commission into the banking industry and was a major player when the LNP's National Energy Guarantee imploded.
That one led to the toppling of Malcolm Turnbull as the country's prime minister.
He is already causing a few ripples as a "lone agent” over a proposed anti-corruption body, saying any legislation needs to be applied evenly across the field.
"Politicians must be held to the highest standard,” he said.
But his influence in the region goes beyond the headline grabbing items.
Upgraded sports facilities like the tennis courts at Kandanga, an extension to Cooinda Aged Care Centre and improvements to Gympie's Showgrounds were all signed for delivery in the past year.
The MP said it was a good start but there was still a long way to go.
"Whilst never completely satisfied, I'm happy with some of my achievements,” he said.
"I know they're helping to improve lives of people living in the Wide Bay.”
The support for Mr O'Brien's vision of the Wide Bay has grown, too.
Despite the election being hailed as "unwinnable” for the LNP before the big night, Mr O'Brien was reinstalled for his second term with a 5 per cent swing of support.
The Wide Bay MP has not been shy about bringing other political powerhouses to the region, either.
During his push to secure the funding for the Gympie Bypass, he first brought then-Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister Barnaby Joyce to the region and - after the embattled New England member's career went pear-shaped thanks to a series of scndalous relationship choices - Mr O'Brien wasted no time securing a visit by replacement Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack no more than two months later, and only two weeks after Mr McCormack stepped into the deputy's shoes.
Road safety improvements like the bypass have been a focus of Mr O'Brien's since his days as a police officer in the region.
From roads to mental health or domestic violence, he has been a first-hand witness to the social issues tearing at the fabric of the Gympie region's success.
And he never stops crediting his wife Sharon for not only helping him through those hard times, but helping him tackle the challenges which lie ahead in getting the Gympie region where he wants it to be.
This list is a subjective talking point, not a scientific guide. We welcome feedback from the public.
It is about the 30 most powerful and /or influential adults and children living in the Gympie region.
How strong and broad is their influence?
A special committee of four community leaders from various walks of life have voted on who should be on this 2019 list and where they rank.
Is there somebody you think should be on the list? Email your contenders to editor@gympietimes or comment below and tell us why.