'Thank you for the privilege of serving you'
TRIBUTES flowed late into the night at The Lismore Workers Club as a packed auditorium came together to celebrate the political career of the Member for Lismore, Thomas George, last Friday.
Nine speeches from "The Great And The Good” of the Northern Rivers, including a heart-felt address by the man himself, spoke of Mr George's dedication to the region over 20 years of service.
More than 400 people paid $50 for the sit-down dinner with a wait-list of more than 80 unable to attend.
All of those who got up in his honour talked about a family man "totally dedicated” to the region, who was "generous with his time” and had an "uncanny memory for names”.
The Premier of NSW, Gladys Berejiklian, spoke via a video link of how Mr George took her under his wing when she first entered parliament and was a great source of encouragement throughout her career in the NSW legislature.
The Hon Troy Grant told the room Mr George was a "major factor” in his own success and "a man who commands respect from everyone he meets” because "you can't fake what Thomas George does, brings or is”.
"You can't buy wisdom, and he has plenty, you can't manufacture humility, and he has it in spades and cannot construct integrity, and he epitomises those values.”
The people would have more faith in the parliament if there were more like him, Mr Grant said.
The Mayor of Tenterfield, Peter Petty, ended his speech with a tailor-made rendition of a Banjo Paterson poem, while prominent blueberry farmer Ridley Bell joked about how it was impossible to have a restaurant meal with Mr George without constant interruptions from adoring public.
Above all, the message was about a career politician with an amazing gift of getting the job done. Paediatrician Chris Ingall thanked Mr George for the millions of dollars he had secured for Lismore Base Hospital during his "somewhat brilliant political career”.
It was also said that barely a school, health service, bridge, gallery, road, sports facility or solar block had been built in the region without Mr George's involvement.
Mr George's son, Stuart, provided an emotional climax to the evening when he told, through tears, of the difficulties involved in being Mr George's son, particularly during the period of The Bentley Blockade.
It was during this time Mr George "learned not all nanas were sweet and cuddly”.
Stuart George spoke of a doting father and grandfather and the family's acceptance at having to share him with the electorate who loved him like they did.
Thomas George's address was the penultimate of the evening as dessert was served.
He marvelled at how a Christian Lebanese migrant could have achieved "all this” and thanked his wife, Deborah, for her loving support.
He made a special tribute to his long serving colleague, Bronwyn Mitchell.
He lamented the abuse and threats he got during the Bentley affair, and the toll it had taken on his staff and family, but said he would have handled things differently if he'd had his current press advisor, Kris Wall.
He told of his heartbreak upon learning his beloved Casino had been moved out of his electorate in 2015.
He would always remain a passionate boy from Casino, where he grew up and went on to be a successful real estate agent and publican. However, this had not stopped him from lobbying hard for Murwillumbah and The Tweed when the boundary saw the shire come under the Lismore seat, said Tweed Council's general manager, Troy Green.
Mr George told his successor, Austin Curtin, "you can do it” at the end of his speech in front of a standing ovation.
Mr Curtin described Mr George as his "driving teacher” before making a toast to his long and successful career.