Ron Petterson’s three eldest children, about the same age they were when he moved to Airlie Beach. Emily, now 25, was born with a rare chromosome abnormality and was five years old when he left. Bridget (now 26) was seven years old and Thomas (now 22) was two years old. INSET: Ron Petterson ran for council on a platform of family values.
Ron Petterson’s three eldest children, about the same age they were when he moved to Airlie Beach. Emily, now 25, was born with a rare chromosome abnormality and was five years old when he left. Bridget (now 26) was seven years old and Thomas (now 22) was two years old. INSET: Ron Petterson ran for council on a platform of family values. Contributed

I regret leaving my three kids behind every day: Cr

HIS name was on the election ballot sheet as Ron Petterson, and the region's voters gave him a place on the Whitsunday Regional Council.

But for 32 years of his life, he was actually known as Ronald Speek.

Mr Petterson, confirming he had a name change in 1998, says it's a story of love and loss: a bitter divorce, followed by a happy marriage in which he took his second wife's surname.

His first wife and three children, however, say he has wiped them from his CV.

Thomas Speek, now 22, says he and his sisters Bridget, 26, and Emily, aged 25 and profoundly handicapped since birth, haven't been contacted by their father for 20 years.

"(Then) I read an article online that he was running for council. Everything about him, spouting that he was a dedicated father… it was a spit in the face," Thomas said.

"Not so much to me, but that a week later it was my sister's birthday, who is severely handicapped. It was her birthday and she has never received anything from him.

"The article said he was family focused and it made me angry (because) for years, it was mum left with three kids and she was the dedicated one."

Thomas believes Mr Petterson running as a council candidate on the basis of family values misled voters about a man who left his eldest son at just two years of age.

But Mr Petterson says he dearly loves all six of his children - the three boys he's raising here in the Whitsundays and the three children he left behind in Melbourne more than two decades ago.

"It was a really upsetting and bitter separation and the children were being pulled in between it," he said of the marriage break-up with their mother.

"And that was part of the reason we moved up here in the first place - to stop that environment.

"There was no choice. It was either move away and let the kids have some sort of normal childhood or carry on with what was happening.

"It might not have been the right decision but it was the best decision I could make at the time, and do I regret it? Every single day."

Ron Petterson.
Ron Petterson. Sharon Smallwood

Mr Petterson says far from not contacting his children he sent letters and Christmas and birthday cards, that never got through.

As for whether his past life was something he kept from voters or not, Mr Petterson said it had never been a secret.

Sergeant John Dickinson, with whom Mr Petterson is affiliated through his work at the PCYC, is one of the many locals who knew; he said he didn't believe it would have made a difference to the election result.

"Why would it? He's not a dishonest person and if it was going to be an issue he wouldn't have told anyone," he said.

"And he's done a lot for the community here."

Maz McDougall is a Division 2 voter, selected at random, who knows Mr Petterson through his community work and voted for him on March 19 but was unaware of his past.

"It would not have mattered one iota," she said.

"This is none of mine and none of the community's business - this was years ago."


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