Kiama's longest-serving mayor Sandra McCarthy has announced she will not contest September's Kiama council elections, bringing down the curtain on her 17-year career in local government.
"In my heart I know it is the right time to go," Councillor McCarthy said.
"I am very proud of what I have achieved and I feel that it is time for me to go and let new leaders emerge."
Serving a record-breaking 12 years as mayor, Cr McCarthy is highly regarded in local government circles and will be remembered for guiding Kiama council through a stable period of local government in what was a tumultuous political time in the Illawarra.
In 2008, the same year that neighbouring Wollongong and Shellharbour councils were sacked, Kiama council was recognised as one of the state's best, receiving the highly commended award in the AR Bluett Memorial Awards.
Cr McCarthy said her decision not to stand again was finalised yesterday.
"Right now I feel really good about the decision, even though it will be hard to let go," she said.
"I want some time for myself and my family ... but I know I leave the council in a good position and I feel happy and confident about that.
"In the future I would like to finish my master's degree; my mind is still sharp, but my immediate focus will be helping my daughter plan her wedding and spending time with my new grandson.
"Also my husband Jeff ... has been an amazing support and I wouldn't have been able to complete the role as I would have liked without his 100 per cent support and that of my family."
Cr McCarthy said there were many highlights in her career.
"I have appreciated the trust people have placed in me to lead the community," she said.
"I've liked sharing the journey and being part of people's lives."
Cr McCarthy said during her time as mayor there had been a major renewal of council's public assets and the creation of new assets including the Old School Park in Gerringong, the redevelopment of the Kiama library and the Kiama Showground pavilion, stage five of the council's Blue Haven retirement village and the Jamberoo School of Arts.
"I have particularly enjoyed the last term of council, working with all the councillors.
"I have had great friendship and support from Peter Bowman and Lexie Wheeler in particular."
Cr McCarthy's decision not to stand throws the September 8 election race wide open.
In 2008 Cr McCarthy's team accounted for 36 per cent of first preferences.
Cr McCarthy will remain mayor until her successor is elected in late September, but in the meantime encouraged as many people as possible to consider standing for council.
"I believe the decisions made here at council are the ones that really matter in local life," she said.