Remembering Whyalla's first Mayor

With a big focus on the year 1970 due to the Whyalla City Council 50 Year Celebrations, it's only appropriate that we remember the first leader of the steel city.

Keith Wilson became Whyalla's first Mayor in 1970 after residents of the city petitioned the Government to have the Whyalla Town Commission dissolved and a council elected to represent the town.

Josie Wilson was married to Keith for 60 years (he sadly passed away in 2016), and certainly remembers the realities of being the 'mayoress' while raising six children.

"Wherever Keith went, I was there with him, all the time," she recalls.

Accompanying Keith came with the duty of delivering speeches at important events, and Josie can remember 'shaking in her boots' when being put to the task.

In particular, Josie remembers being asked to make a speech at the opening of the Country Women's Association Whyalla Branch while Keith was Mayor.

"After the opening we went back to council and there were around 50 women there. I had to go up to each of them and greet them," she said.

"Wherever we went there was always a lot of people, and everyone would dress up for the official functions...I used to wear hairpieces like tiaras."

At the time the Whyalla population was booming, with the shipyards in full action and hundreds of babies being born.

Keith matched the exciting period for the town with his own enthusiasm, regularly cycling long distances and flying airplanes - including an air ambulance which was similar to the Royal Flying Doctors Service.

He raised $200,000 for the Whyalla Hospital on a bike ride from Perth to Whyalla. During his second run as Mayor from 1994-1997, Keith even went skydiving - a feat that was covered in the Whyalla News.

"Dad would have a go at anything, if something had to be done he wanted to get in there and do it," Keith's daughter Jeannette Gilchrist.

Juggling responsibilities between his duty to the town as Mayor, his own car dealership and of course his family, Keith's time as Mayor came with significant challenges.

But his legacy lives on in the minds of those who knew him.

"A lot of people, including our close friends, used to say that even when he wasn't Mayor, Keith was the best Mayor, and that I was the best 'Mayoress'," Josie said.