MASSIVE MILESTONE: Debbie Newton has reached 30 years of working for members of State and Federal government in the Clarence Valley.
MASSIVE MILESTONE: Debbie Newton has reached 30 years of working for members of State and Federal government in the Clarence Valley. Caitlan Charles

Deb Newton: The face behind the Valley’s political leaders

WHEN DEBBIE Newton first secured a role with Clarence MP Ian Causley, she knew nothing about politics - but that wasn't one of the requirements of the job.

Armed with shorthand and typing abilities, Debbie was hired to work in the office of Mr Causley and she never looked back.

Now, 30 years later, Maclean-born Debbie is still serving the Clarence community from behind the scenes.

"I'm very privileged and honoured to have stayed in the game so long," she said.

"It's a lot longer than some of our Prime Ministers over the last 10 years."

While her official role these days is a personal assistant, Debbie does so much more than can be labelled by a title.

She gets to do everything from media work, heading out on the road with current Nationals MP Chris Gulaptis to meet the people of the Clarence and acting as the go-between for the community and Chris.

"Your main role in the office is helping people who come through the door, call or email seeking help or guidance," she said.

"Some people are surprised about what people come to us about. To them, they are big issues, to us it might seem small but to them they're big.

"I look after Chris's day, where he is, his diary and media."

A lot has changed since starting her working life with an electric typewriter and communicating with the community though "snail mail". But modern technology, email and Facebook make our MPs more accessible.

"Computers were only just starting to surface (when I started).

"There was one computer in the office and I had no idea how to use it, it was a dinosaur to me," she said.

"But now we spend most of our day on the computer with emails. Everyone wants an instant (response)."

Since she stepped into Mr Causley's office in Maclean 30 years ago, Debbie has worked for three of the Clarence Valley's politicians including Steve Cansdell.

She also worked on Kevin Hogan's campaign in her own time, such was her party loyalty.

"I was with Ian (Causley) for eight and half years, and in '95 we lost government in the state to Bob Carr. Ian won the election, but it put us into opposition," she said.

"He was approached to stand federally by quite a few people in the '96 election.

"So he decided to have a tilt against the sitting MP which was Harry Woods, won it, and they basically switched seats. Harry stood for the by-election in the Clarence.

"I stayed in the Clarence until the by-election with the intention of working for Ian in federal politics."

Then, Debbie went to work on Steve Cansdell's campaign, which he won.

"I worked for him from 2003 to when Steve resigned in 2011, and then with Chris who I have known for a long time," she said.

"It was an easy transition, knowing your boss."

Debbie said winning the election is the best part of the job.

"The '96 election was the best one, going into Federal Government after being in opposition for so long," she said.

"And I'd never been in federal politics before and going into government in 2011 was really exciting and even now.

"In my 30 years in the job I've never seen anything to the extent of what is being delivered on the ground here, I feel privileged to be a part of what is being delivered here with my current boss.

"It's really exciting times at the moment, busy but exciting."

If her years behind the scenes have taught her anything, it's that not every politician should be tarred with the same brush.

"There are a lot of good politicians out there that feel privileged to be in their job," she said.

"There is a lot of cynicism out there and I get that because of the way that some behave and the tit-for-tat that goes on, but there are a lot of good politicians out there.

"For the critics out there, I get annoyed at the people who are being critical of a politician they have never met before, they're happy to jump on social media and have a shot at them, but is it something they'd say to their face?

"Pick up the phone or drop in, the three politicians I've worked for have all been very accessible."