Can-do councillor Dean Biddulph bows out
Biddulph to follow new career path in US after 10 years of community service
From trying to change the flight path for airplanes coming into the Port Elizabeth Airport over Humewood, to getting frogs removed from a resident’s garden – these are some of the odd requests Nelson Mandela Bay ward 2 councillor Dean Biddulph will miss most about his job.
Biddulph, 54, resigned as a DA ward councillor earlier in December, with his last day of work being Monday.
This is after taking on a new role as the chief operating officer for the CHBC Office Group, a company based in Dublin, Ireland, in October 2017 while remaining a part-time ward councillor of South End, Humerail, Humewood, Forest Hill, Brookes Hill and parts of Summerstrand.
“It is an appropriate time to leave as a ward councillor now,” he said.
“I could have nursed this for the remainder of my term of office, but it would have been disruptive for the party and for my new career.”
Since taking on his new job, Biddulph has been out of the country for about four months.
“I attended to all the necessary duties while away.”
This, Biddulph said, included dealing with about 50 e-mails a day to address residents’ complaints and managing his office at Kings Beach.
“But it is time now for someone else to take over the reins, who has an appetite for this type of community work.”
Biddulph first won the ward in a by-election in 2008 and has remained in the position since then.
“This has consumed a third of my entire working life.
“It is a long time, but good opportunities come only a few times in life and we are just looking forward to this new adventure as a family.”
“But I will miss working in the ward,” he said.
“Politics is lekker and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but it does take a toll on your personal life.
“You live your life in the public eye and you must always be on your best behaviour.
“If you want to socialise over a couple of drinks you need to do it at home so you can let your hair down or else you might just end up on a Facebook page somewhere,” he said.
When the DA-led coalition came into power in August 2016, Biddulph formed part of the mayoral committee as the corporate services portfolio head.
He resigned from this position in December 2017 – two months after he took up his position at the CHBC Office Group.
“I offered to resign as a ward councillor as well, but the party asked me to stay on as it needed the numbers in council and we could not afford a by-election at that point.
“But once we lost the coalition government we reached a mutual agreement that I could resign in the near future.”
This came in the form of an e-mail from Eastern Cape DA chair Andrew Whitfield on November 15.
“He asked if I would consider resigning and I took him up on the offer.”
While the highlight of being a councillor was taking over the political running of the city and his appointment to the mayoral committee, his lowest point was having the DA-led coalition removed from power in August 2018.
“It was a massive disappointment being betrayed by one of our own colleagues in the motions of no confidence.
“All of that also contributed to my decision to leave.
“I don’t think I could go through something like that again,” he said.
During its time in governance, Biddulph said, the DAled coalition had brought a different kind of “energy” to the city’s administration.
“The coalition government went and tackled the issues head-on, and this was not in any form of self-enrichment or gratification,” he said.
“Our government’s heart was in the right place and that energy rubbed off on the municipal staff.
“We didn’t get everything right but we certainly tried our utmost.
“We tried to give a better government to the city.”
On juggling his COO job and ward councillor work, Biddulph said he had his wife, Lynne, to thank.
“She has been a rock and incredibly supportive over the years.
“A lot of people even joked she was the real councillor of ward 2. She did a lot of work as well, but the ward got lucky as they got two ward councillors for the price of one.”
But Biddulph said he was looking forward to concentrating fully on his new job.
“I really didn’t want to be like some councillor colleagues who passed away while still in office. I wanted to tackle a new challenge in my remaining career years.
“I have given 11 years to improving this city and I believe it’s the right time to move on.
“My children are getting older and I am not getting younger.”
What won’t he miss about his job as a ward councillor?
“Those calls at 3am with people complaining about issues.
“Sometimes residents forget we are also ratepayers who have a family,” he said.
“Sometimes you get amazing people who under the most trying circumstances remain polite, but then you have people who are utterly rude over the most trivial matters.”
On the frogs and flight path issues, Biddulph said: “I did try resolve both problems but only managed the removal of the frogs with the help of Arnold Slabbert from Urban Raptors.”
Biddulph’s new role will take him to the US, with his family eventually joining him later next year.
DA Eastern Cape leader Nqaba Bhanga wished Biddulph well on his new career.
“It’s time now for him to focus on this new job.”
Bhanga said Biddulph had been an outstanding councillor for years.
“We are losing a capable individual who served his community,” he said.
Bhanga said the municipality would be informed early next year about the vacancy and a by-election would then be scheduled.