THE tensions on Bathurst Regional Council that have been simmering just beneath the surface for months threatened to boil over at a tense meeting on Wednesday night.
Bathurst's two longest-serving councillors - Ian North and deputy mayor Bobby Bourke - used to be close allies within the chamber. But no more.
Cr North's decision to backflip on his long-standing support of a referendum on a popularly-elected mayor looks to have been the final straw for what was already a strained relationship.
Cr North said he had been convinced in recent weeks that the risks associated with electing a mayor by popular vote outweighed any potential benefit that the change might bring.
And his was the decisive vote that killed off hopes a referendum and ensured this is a topic that will remain on the local agenda well into the next term of council as well.
But, as with all votes within council at present, it's impossible not to consider the ramifications it could have on the coming mayoral vote in September.
The Western Advocate understands at least four councillors - councillors Bourke, North, Jess Jennings and Graeme Hanger - are interested in taking on the top job for the 12 months until the full council elections in September 2020.
And there are plenty to reasons to want the job including the honour and prestige of the role and the opportunity to help shape the future of regional Australia's best city - not to mention the undeniable profile boost it brings ahead of an election.
But conventional wisdom would suggest at least one interested candidate will realise they cannot get the numbers and will drop out of the race before nominations are called, leaving a possible three candidates on the night of the vote.
From there, who knows?
It's impossible at this stage to say with any confidence who the next mayor will be - if there is a change, that is. Cr Hanger has not lost the job yet.
With the outcome so unclear, there will be some intense lobbying between now and September 18 as mayoral hopefuls try to secure the numbers they need.
The mayoral election will take up enormous time and energy that could be better spent by councillors focusing on Bathurst's future, and the final decision will leave the chamber just as divided as it is now.
If only there was another way ...