OPINION | ‘Toze’ was a great mate to Campbelltown

“UH OH, BAZ, HE’S POINTING THE CAMERA AT US”: A candid snap I grabbed of the late, great Paul Tosi (left) with his former deputy GM, Barry Daley, at the last Anzac Day service in Campbelltown's Mawson Park.
“UH OH, BAZ, HE’S POINTING THE CAMERA AT US”: A candid snap I grabbed of the late, great Paul Tosi (left) with his former deputy GM, Barry Daley, at the last Anzac Day service in Campbelltown's Mawson Park.

MAYORS come and go.

They’re like a revolving door of cruise directors while the real captains of the ship tend to be the councils’ general managers. (That’s the same job that was once known as town clerk.)

To put it in perspective, Campbelltown Council has had a staggering 34 changes to its mayorship since 1971, but only five town clerks/general managers in that same period: Bruce McDonald, Keith Garling, Ian Porter, Paul Tosi and Lindy Deitz.

I’ve known them all. Bruce and Ian, in particular, were good friends and mentors – and, of course, Paul, who we sadly lost last week.

Not that I ever called him Paul. From the time I first met him in 1988 (when he was council’s property officer), he was always “Toze”.

It was an affectionate nickname many of us used.

In my decades as a local reporter I came to the conclusion that GMs needed to provide stability – and add an important air of dignity when we are sometimes saddled with slightly embarrassing mayors. As well as managing staff, they also have to juggle the competing egos/passions/ideas of ever-changing councillors without being seen as partisan. It’s a skill not all can master.

This week, we are mourning one of the greats – Toze – who was only hitting his seventies and has left us too bloody young.

Tributes have been pouring in from across political divide, and also from across Macarthur, evident by online praise by Camden’s Mayor Lara Symkowiak: “Very sad news, such a wonderful man, a true gentleman”.

Mark Wallington of the annual 24 Hour Fight Against Cancer said: “I’m lost for words. Such a beautiful person taken before his time.” Rotary’s Dave Symonds called him “a true friend of the Campbelltown-Koshigaya Sister Cities Association.”

Well-known local Kim McCausland perhaps summed up many comments: “He just didn’t earn an income from this area he lived and breathed Campbelltown – his children went to school here, he supported local charities and he will be very missed.”

As I was sharing memories with friends this week, I was reminded of the time in 1989 that, as a joke in the Advertiser, we ran an old photo of a black-haired Toze visiting Rome in 1967, calling him “the Italian Stallion”. 

Council staff had a field day and presented him with a giant poster of Rocky with his face glued on. And Toze took it like a champ.

That was one of his great strengths, his humour.

Toze was a consummate professional, a man who could lead a delegation to a Premier, or negotiate a controversy, yet still somehow keep things light.

We recall his big beaming smile and his loud crackle of a voice when he got passionate about something. So distinct that when you were going down one elevator at the council you could hear him talking in the other elevator as it passed by.

There was also his honorary role as local sounding board to half of the city.

That came with an added layer to my wife, Trish, and I, because in 1991 as young newlyweds we were thinking of getting a block of land in a new estate. Toze bailed me up in a corridor: “Why are building? It’s a buyer’s market!!! Go and look at established houses in Leumeah, and you’ll find a bargain.”

I thought, well, he is a property officer, he should know what he’s talking about. And 26 years later we’re still in the little Leumeah house that we found, and love, on his advice. Onya Toze.

His big beaming smile and his distinctive crackle of a voice.

Our condolences to his wonderful wife, Denise, and the whole Tosi clan. You have Campbelltown’s best wishes.