The West Australian exclusive

Former mayor Shane Van Styn nominates for Nationals WA preselection for Geraldton seat at State election

Anna CoxGeraldton Guardian
Shane Van Styn and Jazzlyn Leonard are set to ger married on January 4 2025
Camera IconShane Van Styn and Jazzlyn Leonard are set to ger married on January 4 2025 Credit: Anna Cox

Former city mayor Shane Van Styn has ended months of speculation, confirming he is putting his hand up to be preselected by the Nationals WA to contest the Geraldton seat at next year’s State election.

“We need to hold the government to account to ensure that the residents of Geraldton are properly represented,” he told the Geraldton Guardian this week.

In October, Mr Van Styn’s eight-year mayoral reign ended in a shock, narrow defeat at the hands of deputy mayor Jerry Clune. He won more votes than Mr Clune, but the deputy emerged victorious after preferences were counted.

Then, the focus immediately turned to what was next for the colourful and outspoken ousted leader.

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Jazzlyn Leonard and Shane Van Styn on the Geraldton Foreshore
Camera IconJazzlyn Leonard and Shane Van Styn on the Geraldton Foreshore Credit: Anna Cox

Mr Van Styn nominated himself for preselection with The Nationals WA on Thursday last week, a decision he did not take lightly but is confident in his ability to claim the seat from Labor incumbent, Lara Dalton.

He is turning to State politics with ferocity and confidence, believing eight years under his belt as mayor will help him get over the line when West Australians go to the polls in March next year.

“The main rival in this game ultimately is to unseat Lara,” Mr Van Styn said.

“Lara is a really lovely person. Underestimating that appeal would be at your peril.”

Lara Dalton and Shane Van Styn
Camera IconLara Dalton and Shane Van Styn Credit: supplied

When questioned on the most pressing issues facing Geraldton, he is quick to bring up the “years of neglect” the seat has experienced under Labor leadership.

Mr Van Styn points to the contentious Geraldton Health Campus refurbishment, botched Aboriginal cultural heritage laws and other Labor-led initiatives.

“Whether it be taking guns off people, shutting down homeless shelters — all of these things just go unanswered by our local MPs, as if nothing’s happening, and it’s outrageous, and it has to stop,” he said.

Mr Van Styn says he’s excited about the prospect of becoming a MP, and including areas like Northampton, Kalbarri, Mullewa and Chapman Valley in his vision of a greater Geraldton.

It begs the question: would Mr Van Styn, known for his outspoken, off-the-cuff ways, toe the party line?

He says he would stand up for what he believed in, even if that went against the party grain.

“I consider myself a centrist. When it comes to economics and finance, I’d be over to the right. But social policy, I’m quite left wing from experience in running Aboriginal health services and being the Mayor, and you’ve got to have that,” Mr Van Styn said.

Mr Van Styn claims his tilt at State politics is nothing about ego or personal goals, rather it is a move he believes would benefit Geraldton and beyond.

“Sometimes politics is about not focusing on the person, but focusing on what’s best for Geraldton. There are other people that come across as horrible and mean and strong, but that just makes them really effective, ” Mr Van Styn said.

Shane Van Styn waits anxiously at the vote count on Saturday evening
Camera IconShane Van Styn waits anxiously at the vote count on Saturday evening Credit: Anna Cox/RegionalHUB

Mr Van Styn admits it would be presumptuous and naive to assume he is a shoo-in for preselection, but said it is a “game of confidence. I’ve never done anything without confidence”.

“My main focus at the moment is presenting before the State Council of the National Party of WA. And they will have their say on whether or not I’m their chosen candidate and I expect that to be in March,” he said.

If successful, he said his campaign would be based on his proven success in leading Geraldton during his two terms as mayor.

“I stand for everyone, everyone knowing acutely too well, what I do, what I stand for, how I go about things. Yeah. And that’s what I’m offering,” he said.

Reflecting on what he could’ve done differently in comparison to his unsuccessful election in October, Mr Van Styn said timing and reputation is everything — warts and all.

He explains campaigning is something which will not begin until later in the year, should he be successful in his nomination for the Geraldton seat.

“I’m not running to be the Pope, I’m running to be a real person in Parliament, I don’t pretend I’m running to be the Pope. But I’ve also demonstrated a genuine compassion and care for our city. Above all else, I’ve always put Geraldton first,” he said.

Mr Van Styn’s fiance, Jazzlyn Leonard, is there to support him through this next political challenge.

“The biggest thing for me after (the council election) was Geraldton is such a big part of Shane’s life, how am I supposed to replace a whole city, I’m not that interesting,” she joked.

“In a healthy relationship you need to prioritise yourself sometimes, and this is what makes him happy.”

Ms Leonard added “he did get the popular vote, so to speak— so the support is definitely there. And just moving into another realm that he’s gonna feel rewarded is really important.”

Mr Van Styn said in hindsight after October’s loss, “I think I needed a break”.

But he’s still as much a public figure as he was before.

“In terms of being stopped in the street and asked questions, that definitely hasn’t changed. Almost more so. A lot of them centre on asking if I can have a crack at being the MP,” he said.

191015ggunewmayor001 The new City of Greater Geraldton mayor Shane Van Styn Picture: Letitia Busniak
Camera IconNewly elected City of Greater Geraldton mayor Shane Van Styn in 2015. Credit: Geraldton Guardian/Geraldton Guardian

Mr Van Styn previously ran for the Nationals for the federal seat of Durack in 2013, losing to current Liberal MP Melissa Price after she claimed 54 per cent of votes.

“I was a devout member of The Nationals, but as soon as I was elected mayor I ceased my membership. I wanted it to be an apolitical role,” he said.

One of his main motives to stand with The Nationals is to create a stronger voice for the region, and helping turn around diminished regional representation since the seat came into Labor hands.

“The very first piece of legislation that Lara Dalton voted on was abolishing regional representation, she had been there only a matter of weeks and just betrayed regional WA,” Mr Van Styn said.

When asked what kind of MP he thinks he would be if everything goes his way, Mr Van Styn said an open door policy was the secret sauce for effective leadership.

“The way I engage with folks and being open, being readily available for commentary, I won’t be running like the current MP, you won’t get out of office messages every time you email me,” he said.

Current City of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn is running for his third term as Mayor
Camera IconShane Van Styn was narrowly defeated while running for his third term as mayor. Credit: Anna Cox/RegionalHUB

Mr Van Styn arguably has a head start given his high profile and prolific presence on social media, which he built up during his time in local government.

“It was actually more about being online and being direct and actually communicating,” Mr Van Styn said.

Between now and the 2025 election, Mr Van Styn has other big plans. He and Ms Leonard have locked in a wedding date.

The couple will wed on January 4, 2025, in Ashburton, New Zealand — Ms Leonard’s hometown .

“We had a meeting with our caterer over there, and turns out she’s a Mullewa girl,” Mr Van Styn said.

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