FORMER Wangaratta councillor Julian Fidge has confirmed his availability to fill the vacancy left by the late Ruth Amery.
Dr Fidge, who was widely blamed for the former council being sacked in 2013, is among the contenders to win a countback of votes expected to be held in early November.
Cr Ruth Amery died suddenly on Thursday night, aged 66.
Another city ward candidate in contention, Ashlee Fitzpatrick, will also make herself available to serve on the council for the remainder of its term.
Cr Amery’s family released a statement about her death on Sunday.
“The family is deeply saddened by the sudden and unexpected death of Ruth, the centre and colour of our lives,” the statement said.
“We will miss her passion and commitment to everything she did.
“We are grateful for the time we had together and the impact she had on us all.
“We would like to extend our gratitude and appreciation to our friends, extended family, the community and Wangaratta Council for their love and support.”
Dr Fidge’s 1271 first preference votes were the most for a city ward candidate outside of the four elected last year, including mayor Ken Clarke.
His total is almost 400 more than Ms Fitzpatrick with the other potential replacement, Greg Mirabella, polling 835 first preference votes.
“Ruth was a great councillor, who did a terrific job of representing people's concerns to Wangaratta Council,” Dr Fidge said.
“She always voted according to her conscience, and was her own woman.
“I recall that she was the only councillor who voted against the final proposal to increase the number of electronic gaming machines in Wangaratta recently.
“I will make myself available to serve as a councillor if the countback goes my way, but I expect many of Ruth's preferences to flow to the other female candidate, Ashlee Fitzpatrick.”
Ms Fitzpatrick said she was also stunned by Cr Amery’s passing and would be honoured to replace her if the countback went her way.
She works for Junction Support Services.
“We need youth and another female on council,” Ms Fitzpatrick said.
“Ruth was our only female and women’s representative and she did a fantastic job.”
Mr Mirabella considered himself an outside chance of replacing Cr Amery and doubted he would have time given he had taken on vice-president role with the Victorian Liberal Party since last year’s council election.
“The Amerys are neighbours of ours and my thoughts go out to husband Noel and family,” he said.
“It’s sad for the people of Wangaratta.
“She was a good councillor and her own person.”
Funeral details are still to be confirmed.
The last time a countback was held for Wangaratta Council was in 2013 when Lisa McInerney resigned.