No stranger to the hustings or to the voting public of the Bega Valley, Fiona Kotvojs is standing as the Liberal candidate for the NSW state seat of Bega in the February 12 by-election.
Dr Kotvjos has twice stood as the Liberal candidate in the federal seat of Eden-Monaro, narrowly missing out on both occasions.
Married with two children and two grandchildren, Dr Kotvojs and her husband of 21 years, Alan Burdon live on the family farm at Dignams Creek.
She says Cobargo is her community, the place where she grew up on the farm and the place she returned to in between her studies and work.
It's partly that experience of going away to study and finding work elsewhere that influenced Dr Kotvojs' decision to enter politics.
"The reason I went into politics was about what could be improved and one of those was the need for opportunities to study locally. Things haven't changed; the ability to train and work in the area is still hard," Dr Kotvojs said.
She sees putting educational establishments of all kinds close together so they can cross fertilise, as a starting point, and was positive about Bega developing an education precinct.
"We need to ensure TAFE meets the needs of industry and agribusiness. People think university is the only avenue but some pathways are best served through the TAFE system," Dr Kotvojs said.
On housing Dr Kotvojs said it was something to be considered as a whole, whether it was social and emergency housing, refuges or housing in general.
"We need to work together because barriers at one level affect other areas," she said.
Bega Valley Shire Council currently has a draft affordable housing strategy out for comment and she encouraged people to read it and comment.
Dr Kotvojs is keen on planning particularly with an eye to the future, and especially as the pace of change increases.
"What we really need for Eden is a masterplan for that whole area. There's a lot of opportunity in Eden to create something special but we need to do the planning to start with," Dr Kotvojs said.
Dr Kotvojs and her husband have started several small businesses in the area and were involved with others in the development of the community association based Gourmet Coast Trail, encompassing Bega Valley and Eurobodalla. She is very aware of the need to have steady year round tourism "so that there's no peak of jobs in summer and nothing else at other times".
For the last 20 years, Dr Kotvojs has worked in the international development sector, leading design, management and evaluation of multi-million dollar programs to improve government service delivery in education, agriculture, fisheries, infrastructure, economic governance, health, community development and law and justice.
She has been a regional project and programs manager in PNG and the Pacific and lead teams to evaluate the international response to various natural disasters including the tsunami in Aceh and cyclone Evan in Samoa.
"There's $100m coming into the Bega Valley and Eurobodalla in bushfire recovery grants. The community needs someone who can speak on their behalf and get the maximum out of these grants," Dr Kotvojs said.
When it comes to values for a local member she sees "commitment to service, to community and others, and to delivery; and integrity," as key.
She says community is important and growing up in the Cobargo community influenced her.
"When you go through the bushfires there's support that no formal group could do."
Dr Kotvojs has been an RFS member since returning to the farm full time in 2005 and is an active member of the Cobargo brigade, an executive committee member of the Dignams Creek Community Group, and has been a Cobargo Agriculture Society Show steward from 2007.
She is involved with the Anglican Church at a local and regional level and was a director of Oxfam Australia for eight years.
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