It's been 20 years since teenage Ben Shields called on Dubbo to 'give the young fella a go' and elect him to council.
Cr Shields was 18-years-old when he ran for Dubbo City Council.
"When I first ran it was more or less and experiment to see how it would go. It was a tongue-in-cheek exercise where I thought if I made all my mistakes the first time than in four years time I'll know exactly what I'm doing," he said.
"It didn't quite work like that. I ended up being the 10th man elected in a 12 man council."
The Daily Liberal articles at the time described the appointment as "the big surprise of the council election".
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His first council meeting was the night before his major Higher School Certificate exams.
Cr Shields was the youngest person to ever be elected as a councillor in NSW. As far as he knows, it's a record he still holds. He was still the youngest councillor in Dubbo until two years ago.
Getting into politics was something he had wanted to do since he was 10-years-old.
"I've come to think now that I probably was too young to be elected," the mayor said.
"There's no doubt that in my first time I was manipulated a lot by various people around the place and talked into a lot of things. I was too young. But I've opened my eyes to a lot of things since then."
It wasn't until his third term, when he started topping the election polls, that Cr Shields said he considered running for mayor. He was deputy mayor of Dubbo City Council before the amalgamation, before being elected as mayor of Dubbo Regional Council in 2017.
"There's so much that needs to be done. I've always wanted to make significant changes at Dubbo council and I've never really been given the opportunity to do that until this term of council," Cr Shields said.
Cr Shields said being mayor of Dubbo was busier than a full time job. He said there were at least four nights every week where he worked late, from council meetings to village visits.
But despite the long hours, it's a role he loves.
"Council in a lot of ways has suited me. I live and breath it, there's no doubt about that," he said.
"I've come to know Dubbo like the back of my hand and I know the Local Government Act like the back of my hand. I still struggle with planning but I certainly love the gig."
Dubbo is in the blood for Cr Shields who is a fifth-generation Dubbo resident.
"Both sides of the family have a long history here. My grandfather was one of the last wardens at the Old Dubbo Gaol. I'll live in Dubbo for the rest of my life, this is my home," he said.
While he's proud to be leading the council, the challenges come when a decision has to be made that not everyone is going to agree with.
"It does knock you around sometimes where you make decisions and you know there's going to be a significant proportion of the community that is going to be upset with you. That does knock you around. But some things can't be avoided," Cr Shields said.
While it was challenging, the mayor said in every decision he had to consider what was best for Dubbo.
He also looks to two former mayors to guide his mayoral style: Tony McGrane and Gerry Peacocke.
From Mr McGrane, the mayor has seen the benefits of a cohesive council, while from Mr Peacocke he has learnt to stand for the city. Cr Shields is a member of the Liberal Party but said he never puts party allegiances first.
"It doesn't matter if it's someone from your own party, sometimes you need to put the boot in, rather than just toeing the party line all the time. You've got to stand for your community first and foremost," he said.
"There have definitely been failings in my term as mayor, I'll admit to that, but all mayors have failings," Cr Shields said.
During his 20 years in local government, the mayor said the biggest decision issue to hit council was something the organisation had no control over: the amalgamation. In 2016, Dubbo City Council and Wellington Shire Council were merged. The new council was put under the control of an administrator.
Cr Shields said it was going to take between five to ten years to "put the place back together properly" after being merged with Wellington.
However, personally, Cr Shields said his biggest decision was to never vote for a rate rise above CPI or inflation.
"I've consistently held the view that until there can be a serious presentation to me of serious facts and figures saying that all the fat has been cut out from council and all efficiency has been totally achieved I can't vote for a rate rise or a water rate rise above inflation," he said.
His proudest moment came in 2008 when he helped get a 10,000 signature petition against council's rate rise. Council had requested a special rate rise of four per cent on top of the 3.2 per cent that was already permitted.
The NSW Local Government minister at the time ruled against the special rate rise.
"They looked at our accounts and said 'Dubbo City Council you have got fat and you can trim that fat'. That was my proudest moment on the council. And I wasn't a mayor or a deputy mayor. I was just getting out there campaigning," Cr Shields said.
At any election the people of Dubbo could decide not to vote in Cr Shields. But as long as people keep voting for him, the mayor says he'll keep standing for council.
"But I'm also of the belief that if ever I'm defeated as mayor I probably should call it a day and go. I went through a period of time on councils where I see the mayors going backwards and forwards and seesawing and it was just ridiculous. It was disruptive and stupid," Cr Shields said.
"Exs shouldn't be in the building. It's as simple as that. They should retire gracefully."
When asked if he would look at standing for a higher level of politics, Cr Shields said he would never say never to anything.