Online trolls decide council candidate
THE fate of Rockhampton Region councillor Stephen Schwarten’s local government career is in the hands of online trolls.
After announcing he would run in the March election at Tuesday’s council meeting – despite saying previously he would step down – he has changed his mind.
“I will not be contesting the next election and retiring as intended,” Cr Schwarten said.
The Division 7 councillor does not want to run in the next local government election, but said he would if the online trolls provoked him to.
“I’ve got a political reputation, I am not going to go out of office under a cloud,” he said.
Cr Schwarten is conflicted between wanting to retire and standing up to people’s online comments.
“Words hurt (and) words injure,” he said.
He planned to mark an end to his three-decade political career but changed his mind after seeing online comments made about him.
“If people want to carry on with this on Facebook I will stand again,” he said.
“I will make mental wellness in this community an issue and I will make Quay St an issue, but I don’t want to do that.”
The online comments were made following a story published by The Morning Bulletin on October 16.
That he was claiming his salary under false pretences and his absence from the community were just two comments he had grievances with.
He said Mayor Margaret Strelow’s comments regarding his lack of attendance to council meetings provoked the online “vile political attacks”.
Cr Schwarten has been diagnosed with depression and symptoms of ADHD and bipolar.
He said his lack of attendance to meetings was a result of his poor health and that if the derogatory online comments continued, he would run again to protect his “good family name”.
“If they want a fight then I’ll give them a fight, but I want to retire,” he said.
“I need to retire but Schwartens don’t run away from a political fight.”
Cr Schwartens brother and father both served as community representatives in the Rockhampton region.