History of West Australia/Alfred Frederick Lee

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REPRESENTATION in municipal bodies is more satisfactory, and more easily adjusted in one sense, than in political. Every person within the municipal bounds who pays rates has a vote. There is little difficulty and little discussion. Each man may vote according to his conception of a candidate's character, and hence it comes to pass that councillors well represent the wishes of ratepayers, and, being daily brought in contact with them, they are always en rapport with their requirements and wishes. Less room is left for dissatisfaction and for cavil, and the representative can hardly fairly be accused of being "out of touch" with his constituency.

Ratepayers are supposed to choose the most suitable among themselves to represent their interests round the civic table. It is the vote of interest and property; and thus the civic body deliberates, and each councillor represents the wishes of those who elect him. Councillors retire in rotation, and here also a great point is gained.

Perth, as the chief municipality in the colony, gives a greater importance to her representatives. They are the civic fathers of the colony. It is a strong body, and contains good men. Among them is Councillor Alfred F. Lee. A native of the colony, Mr. Lee has had a long connection with Perth. He has materially helped in its growth and increase of stature, and justly, therefore, watches paternally over its interest in the council.

Alfred Frederick Lee was born at Toodyay in 1860. The name Toodyay has since been superseded by Newcastle. Mr. Alfred Lee, father of the present councillor, came to the colony in connection with the Imperial Service as a commissariat officer. He held this post for twenty-one years, and now enjoys in retirement an Imperial pension. Alfred was educated first at Mr. M. O'Callaghan's Fremantle Catholic Boys' School, whence he went to the Government School at Fremantle. When sixteen years old he was apprenticed in Perth to learn carpentery and joinery, under Mr. J. A. Halliday. He duly became a journeyman, and for two years followed this avocation. At the end of that period he entered business on his own account as contractor and builder. The first contract he engaged in was the making of additions and improvements to the Legislative Council refreshment rooms. Those were the beginning of prosperous days for him, and thenceforward for many years he was one of the largest building contractors in the colony. One large contract followed another, and he erected some prominent buildings in Perth. He erected the well-known Sandover Buildings, the property in Hay Street owned by Mr. Alexander, M.L.A. and those structures extending from the corner of Hay Street, in Barrack Street, nearly half-way down the thoroughfare towards the railway. Out of these he was able to make big profits, and, with other contracts, he was very active for some years. Finally, Messrs. Connor and Quinlan (now a councillor of Perth) placed the management of the Victoria Hotel in Fremantle, in his hands. Supervising this, and undertaking some small contracts, twelve months passed. Then he took over the Grand Hotel in Perth. Within two years he made such a success of this that he retired. Since that time (1895) he has not taken an active part in business pursuits beyond the erection of cottages on his own city property.

Early in 1895 Mr. Lee was elected by the ratepayers of the East Ward, Perth, to represent them in the City Council. He was opposed by Messrs. H. Baker and Jno. Elliott, and polled the largest number of votes ever recorded by a single member in that ward. This proved that he possessed the full confidence of ratepayers, who reckoned that he would conscientiously watch over their interests. He has fulfilled all his pledges where possible, and has been able to confer benefits on Perth. Knowing so much of the city, he is in a position to speak with knowledge on all matters which came up for deliberation, and the least that can be said of his civic career is that he has given every satisfaction, and satisfied all anticipations made at his entrance.

Among other positions which Councillor Lee holds in Perth, he is a trustee of the H.A.C. Society, and a member of the Irish National Foresters. He was married in 1892 to a daughter of Mr. Richard McCorry, an officer attached to the Imperial forces stationed at Northam, and a Crimean veteran. Councillor Lee is a fluent speaker. Quick-witted, he rapidly grasps a subject, and makes up his mind and speaks on the matter with effect. Ratepayers of the Ward have no reason to be dissatisfied with his municipal career, which they hope will be an extended one. He has numerous friends in Perth who admire good qualities.