After failing to get elected in 30 consecutive contested ballots since 2000, including 24 public company boards, it is hard to describe the joy of scrutineering on Friday when it became clear that the better half was going to top the ballot for the RACV service member board elections.

After hanging about at the Port Melbourne warehouse most of the morning, the first tangible results came through at about 3pm and Paula’s marginal lead after 1300 ballots were counted remained a true reflection of the outcome until the end.

In one of the quirks of Australia’s biggest mutual, the candidates were formally advised of the official result on Saturday morning, but it won’t be publicly disclosed until the AGM on 16 November, when Paula’s three year term will commence.

Paula will be the youngest director and the Herald Sun reported today that the losing incumbent was David Mattei, who first joined the RACV board in 1979. The Age also covered the story and the first calls of congratulation have come in from other RACV directors.

In an exclusive interview with Crikey, Paula said she was thrilled but also a little overawed:

At first I was in shock when Stephen called on Friday afternoon because he normally has candidate’s disease and gets his predictions wrong.

It will be a big step to go from deliberating about storage facilities on the kinder committee to making decisions involving hundreds of millions of dollars but I’m determined to work hard and make a constructive contribution.

Paula cracking a board will be an interesting test for a professional election-loser like me and I’ve already given an undertaking to RACV company secretary Barry Nerlich that we will respect confidentiality. Indeed, I’ve now got a raging conflict of interest and probably can’t make any comment about RACV matters.

However, that doesn’t mean I’m recanting earlier comments about the governance and board structure and Paula will have to make up her own mind about how she approaches these issues from the inside.

All this will make for some interesting days ahead.

Peter Fray

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