Number 55 brings luck to Councilor Leanne Pentreath
Leanne Pentreath stole a quote from one of her outspoken grandchildren when I asked her how she had viewed the past five years at Campaspe Shire Council.
Cr Pentreath’s 12-year-old grandson Arley has an interesting way of describing his experience eating strawberries, which his grandmother has compared to sitting on the board.
âI’m going to use our Arley’s description of eating semi-ripe strawberries, ‘it’s like winking and smiling at the same time,â she said.
âBeing a city councilor can be stimulating and enjoyable.
“You have to be surrounded by very supportive family and friends, you cannot make decisions personally, you have to prepare for meetings and be prepared to keep asking questions until you have all the information. . “
From her 55-acre property on the outskirts of Lockington, she and her past 40-year-old husband Brendan continue to play an important role in the community.
Fifty-five is a significant number for the Pentreaths, moving from the townhouse to the first farm on the outskirts of town.
âWe bought almost 55 acres when Brendan was 55 and I was 55, and the property is number 55,â she said.
âWe also have Dad’s 55 International truck at the front door. “
Over the past three years, they’ve taken a step back from the four decades before they decided to sell their Lockington General Store business to Brendan’s niece, Breanna, and her husband Ged.
Cr Pentreath said his stepfather, Des Pentreath, told the story of his decision to buy the general store in 1978.
âHe still says he bought the store to make sure his seven children would be employed,â she said.
Even visionary Des wouldn’t have considered the impact his stepdaughter was about to have on the community.
She has been a key figure on the Lockington Development Committee, a member of the Board of Directors of Elmore Lockington Community Bank and Lockmore Financial Services, a key player in Foodtown SSW Victorian Retail Group, a member of the CEO’s Advisory Board of Australian Foodworks and a passionate participant of the Campaspe Shire Drought Social Recovery Committee.
âI worked as a nurse, retail assistant, in administration with Wards Construction, manager of Lockington Foodworks Thriftylink and now I’m a farmer,â said Cr Pentreath.
She is the middle child of seven, with her parents buying a dairy farm and starting a Jersey Stud in Tennyson in 1964.
âWe all helped out on the farm or at home while I was growing up,â she said.
“We played tennis, netball, basketball a lot and went to church on Sundays.”
There is an infectious motivation about the multi-talented local government representative, a motivation that has seen her fight on multiple fronts with state and federal governments.
Her goal of making Australia “drought-proof” began in 2003, when she saw first-hand farmers leave their properties.
âI need a challenge, a goal, and that’s exactly what the board provides,â she said.
After her husband quit his job in Melbourne, he returned to work at the Lockington store and, unable to stand still, Cr Pentreath found himself with different roles in the company.
âI was bored on maternity leave with our second child and snuck into the store on weekends when the store was closed,â she said.
âI used to replenish the stock from the store, fill the shelves and create stacks.
“I probably drove the employees crazy.”
Brendan eventually took over as a manager and his wife quickly became an accountant, while also performing her nighttime nursing duties.
âBrendan and I have been at supermarket and hardware conferences, bringing back some great ideas to challenge Des,â she said.
âInitially, Des and Dorothy were nice and gave us a third of the business and we eventually bought the business.
âOur Superfund also bought full ownership of Des and Dorothy.
“In June 2018, Brendan’s niece and her husband took over the business making it three generations of Pentreath.”
There is no history of politics in the family, two of Cr Pentreath’s sisters are (or were) nurses and hospital administrators with farmer husbands.
Another sister works in the retail business.
âMy twin brothers are dairy farmers,â she said.
A high school student in Rochester, Cr Pentreath was more into sports, chemistry, and biology than politics, and in 1981 he was accepted into Echuca Nursing School.
âIt was a really exciting year, Brendan and I were married and had our first son Josh in September,â she said.
Most of her nursing career at Echuca Hospital has been on the night shift, working alongside Sister Lorraine Donovan in the Johnston Wing and recalling Noel Welch’s impact on her career.
Never one to rest on her laurels, Cr Pentreath studied Retail Management and even started a bachelor’s degree in accounting.
She took on a training role in the retail industry and, another random change of direction in her career, took a 100 hour dog training course.
All did not go as planned, as a well-meaning birthday present turned into a difficult scenario for pet ownership.
âI saved a Samoy Husky from the pound and gave it to Brendan for his birthday, but I couldn’t stop him from escaping; too bad for the training, âsaid Cr Pentreath.
The Pentreaths have three grown children, Josh and his girlfriend Nicole have five children between them, Zac and Hannah have a one-year-old Fadey, while Tameka and Sam have eight-month-old Zowie.
“We have a rescue dog who lifted his camails and barked at Brendan for the first six weeks we had him, two horses that are actually expensive pets and we are currently turning our cattle into registered shorthorns.” said Cr Pentreath.
She was radiant in her assessment of the support network that had allowed her to develop in so many different directions in her life.
âI’m lucky to have Brendan by my side and to be such a great husband and father,â she said.
“I am also fortunate to have supportive friends and families and I must thank former advisers Neil Pankhurst, Leigh Wilson and Daniel Mackrell, all of whom have helped me think more clearly.”
Although his passions are expanding exponentially, being at home on the farm with animals remains one of his simplest pleasures.
As for the impact of COVID-19 on his life, it has been quite positive from a financial standpoint.
âI was able to save money because I don’t shop online,â Cr Pentreath said.
âLike everyone else, I had to adjust to Zoom or phone meetings, instead of face to face.
âI miss cuddling the grandchildren, we have four grandchildren in Barossa, one in Bendigo and another in Melbourne.
âI must add that we miss seeing their parents too. “
Cr Pentrath’s mother, whom she calls Myrtle, told her to “remove her finger”.
And a rather mischievous Ian Maddison told him that the role of adviser would occupy “only about one day a week, on average”.
âI think Ian maybe softened the role,â she said.
A resident of the West Quarter all her life, she described her neighborhood as a strong, united and caring community, which could collectively benefit from it.
âI came to the board with a desire to help people achieve their goals,â she said.
Upgrading Gunbower Lions Park, better roads, game-friendly netball fields, a review of assets and services for the community and visitors, remain its costliest items.
“I raised my hand as deputy mayor for the first time after the 2016 election, to bridge the gap between experienced councilors and new councilors – while providing gender balance points with Adrian Weston as mayor, âshe said.
âOur cities do a lot of good things.
âSeveral towns have called on well-known locals to create memorials.
âRochester did it well by starring Sir Hubert Opperman, Sharelle McMahon and their historic and natural assets.
âGirgarre has a proud defender and driver in Jan Smith.
âPhil Candy and his team are rebuilding the venues and events in Torrumbary.
âLockington used the skills of the community to collectively rebuild assets for new purposes.
âAt Gunbower, you cannot exceed the commitment of Audrey Dickens and Sue McGillivray to developing Lions Park.
Cr Pentreath said his frankness in his requests for answers was not always popular, but was often needed.
âAs advisers, we need to ask questions, challenge thinking and not just accept the information given to us or the direction that is directed to us,â she said.
And before her term on council ends, she, like so many other rural residents, wants to see better roads.
Cr Pentreath said Campaspe Shire has a very good management team and a group of employees who do their best for the county community, its businesses and visitors.
As with a typical week, aside from feeding the cattle, checking on his parents and talking to his family on FaceTime – like everyone else, he waited for news of Prime Minister Dan Andrews’ daily decisions.