Paul Toole becomes the new Deputy Prime Minister of New South Wales after he was elected leader of the nationals in a party chamber vote on Wednesday morning.
The former teacher-turned-politician defeated the water minister, Melinda Pavey, by 15 votes to three to replace outgoing leader and deputy prime minister John Barilaro.
Toole was the minister for regional transport and roads, and previously held the portfolios of racing, local government and agriculture and forestry.
Speaking in the banquet hall shortly after the meeting, Toole said, “I’m telling you, I’m looking forward to getting back to work.”
Toole will be sworn in later on Wednesday and is expected to speak more extensively about his new role.
Before entering Parliament with his predecessor in 2011, Toole had served for decades in Bathurst on the Central Plateaus.
Local Kelso worked as a primary school teacher for nearly 20 years before joining the congregation in 1995.
After 10 years he became the first deputy mayor of the municipality and two years later he won the top position.
In 2011, the father of three made the switch to state politics, winning in a landslide and turning Bathurst from a safe Labor seat to a safe Nationals seat.
As the new junior coalition partner leader, Toole will be influential in shaping the direction of the state under Dominic Perrottet’s government.
Toole was deputy leader of the NSW Nationals and his appointment as leader on Wednesday meant that his deputy party leadership was vacant.
Bronnie Taylor, an upper house MP and minister of mental health, was elected deputy leader unopposed.
Toole was the frontrunner for the job, given his seniority in the party, and a Nationals MP also told Guardian Australia there was a sense of frustration among colleagues that Pavey had signaled her candidacy so soon after the announcement of Barilaro’s resignation on Monday.
Barilaro announced Monday that he would? stop state politics days after Gladys Berejiklian’s shock resignation as prime minister of NSW, who said NSW needed a “new beginning”.
Meanwhile, Berejiklian visited her voter’s office in Northbridge on Wednesday morning, where flowers and messages of support have been left by local supporters in the days since she announced her resignation from politics on Friday.
Speaking for the first time since Friday, Berejiklian said she thought Perrottet would be “an excellent leader”.
“I want to say a big thank you to everyone, it was a huge comfort… and I want everyone to support Prime Minister Perrottet.
“I want everyone to know that I will read every card, every message.”
Berejiklian resigned after the Independent Commission Against Corruption announced it would investigate allegations against her.
With Australian Associated Press