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John So

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Councillor John So

John Chun Sai So (蘇震西, pinyin: Sū Zhnxī) (born 20 October 1946) is Lord Mayor of Melbourne. Melbourne, the second -largest city in Australia, is the capital of the state of Victoria. He was the first in the city's history to be directly elected by the people of Melbourne - previously Lord Mayors were chosen by the Council. So was born in Hong Kong, and moved to Melbourne at age 17. His mother later joined him, but he still has brothers in Hong Kong.

So has tertiary qualifications in education and science from the University of Melbourne. During his time at university, he campaigned strongly against the White Australia Policy and helped found the University's Overseas and Chinese Students Association. Afterwards, he became a high school science teacher, working at Fitzroy High School. He has been a restaurant proprietor since 1973. He has been married twice and has four children.

So's career has included positions as director of the Melbourne Water Corporation, Ethnic Affairs Commissioner for Victoria, Vice-President of the Melbourne Chinatown Traders' Association, Chairman of the Asia Pacific Racing Carnival and chairman of the Victorian Chinese Welfare Centre. He is also the number one ticketholder for the Melbourne Football Club.

So was elected as a Councillor for Central Ward on the Melbourne City Council in 1991. In March 1999 he came within one vote of being elected Lord Mayor. In July 2001, he achieved his goal, becoming the first directly elected Lord Mayor. He defeated a number of high-profile candidates, including Australian Democrats founder Don Chipp.

So has generally been a popular mayor, and has been credited for choosing to walk to appointments where possible, instead of using taxpayer funds to be driven around. Along with television presenter Livinia Nixon, he has been the face of the "That's Melbourne" campaign to encourage tourism. He has campaigned against crime, and is a member of the Police Minister's Crime Prevention Council. He has also pushed for the federal government to build a national indigenous museum in Melbourne.

So has also been criticised from a number of sectors over his time as mayor. Some see him as a poor communicator, partly due to his heavily accented English. He had connections to a restaurant that was fined $75,000 for breaches of the Food Act by his own Council. So has also been accused of favouring friends when considering appointments to council positions.

In 2002, he snubbed the Dalai Lama during his Australian visit, and it was left to Geelong mayor Barbara Abley to welcome him. More recently, the Council was punished by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for leaving the Falun Gong out of the city's annual Moomba parade.

Though he had been a relatively popular mayor, So was widely expected to be defeated at the 2004 elections. While he had been elected in 2001 as a result of receiving preferences from many candidates, this time many candidates had preferenced against him. As a result, he needed to triple his primary vote if he was to retain the mayoral position. This challenge was further complicated by widespread allegations of dummy candidates preferencing one or more of his rivals, as there were more than a hundred candidates for the two positions of mayor and deputy mayor. Despite this, So polled more than 40% of the primary vote on election day, and was re-elected in a landslide. His ticket for the regular council was also successful, winning numerous positions.


Preceded by:
Peter Costigan
Lord Mayor of Melbourne
2001-
Succeeded by:
Incumbent

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