Canberra community stalwart Val Jeffery dies

 canberratimes.com.au  7/18/2017 7:40:07 AM 

Canberra's oldest and briefest politician Val Jeffery has died, the ACT Liberals confirmed on Tuesday.

Mr Jeffery took a seat for the Liberals briefly in the ACT parliament at the end of July last year, after Brendan Smyth was made Commissioner for International Engagement.

He was elected on countback, after initially saying he was too old to enter parliament.

Mr Jeffery, 82, served for just two and a half months officially, although he was required in the chamber for much less time, with just two sitting weeks left before the election campaign, barely time to make an inaugural speech.

It was a speech that blasted self-government as "a circus" and a sore disappointment, bringing insecurity, uncertainty and bureaucrats.

He asked a question at each of the six Question Times, focusing on bushfire readiness, the neglect of rural communities, and water in Tharwa, but otherwise did not sit in the chamber and had a pair for votes.

Mr Jeffery, who owned and ran the Tharwa General Store, took the sudden change in career last year in his stride.

"I'm a bit dark. It's all new to me," he said at the time.

"It's something different to put an extra couple of months in towards the end of my lifetime, the end of retirement ... it's a bit hard to explain because it came so out of the blue. All I can do is just take one step at a time."

His only son, Kevin Jeffery, who now runs the family store, said his father had been unwell since late last year. But he said the political moment had been "icing on the cake at the end" for his father, whom he described as "authentic and traditional".

"I'm proud of his life," Kevin Jeffery said. "He did a huge amount of things and I don't think he regretted any of it."

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said Mr Jeffery was an "institution" of Tharwa.

"Everyone in Tharwa, or who ever lived in Tharwa, knew and respected Val," he said, with Mr Jeffery having captained the local bushfire brigade for 38 years.

Describing Mr Jeffery's political career as "brief but passionate", Mr Barr said Labor had not always agreed with him but had respected his passion and enthusiasm.

Liberal Leader Alistair Coe said Mr Jeffery was a well-loved identity who devoted much of his life to serving the community.

"Val always stood up for what he believed was right and never shied away from taking on authorities in pursuit of common sense," he said. "The opportunity to serve alongside him in his political career in the Assembly was a privilege."

Former Liberal Leader Jeremy Hanson said Mr Jeffery would be missed.

"His maiden speech is worth reading because it's just full of his rich experience of life," Mr Hanson said.

"In the heat of an election campaign and the rough and tumble of politics having Val come into the Assembly was something that everyone appreciated from all sides.

"... He brought in a forthright way of speaking, a wonderful humanity."

Emergency Services Minister Mick Gentleman paid tribute to Mr Jeffery's long contribution to the bushfire brigade.

"Val's contribution to rural fire fighting in the ACT will always be remembered and appreciated by all members of the emergency services and fire fighting community," he said.

"I knew Val personally for some 30 years and will miss our time together at the Tharwa store."

Mr Jeffery, who died overnight on Monday, is survived by his wife Dorothy, son Kevin and two grandchildren. His funeral will be held in Queanbeyan next week, with details yet to be finalised.

The ACT Emergency Services Agency acting commissioner Mark Brown added his tribute.

"Mr Jeffery was a passionate advocate for bushfire protection in the ACT having served the community in various capacities for over six decades including as a long time members of the ACT Rural Fire Service," Mr Brown said.

ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury offered condolences to Mr Jeffery's family.

"Val was a well known Canberran who was passionate about Tharwa, and advocated successfully on part of the Tharwa community," he said in a statement

"During his time in the Assembly, Val continued to make the case for Tharwa, as well as making sure that the ACT was prepared for the threat of bushfire.

"The ACT Greens wish to convey our thoughts and sympathies to his wife Dorothy and his family at this time."

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