A South West shire president who publicly backed a group of anti-vaxxers labelling the media reporting of the COVID pandemic as “gutter” journalism has retired from his council immediately. Bridgetown-Greenbushes Shire president John Bookless announced he would step away from his position from this week. His tenure as leader lasted a mere six months, having only been voted into the top job after local government elections in October. Mr Bookless’ resignation comes just days after the Manjimup-Bridgetown Times published an editorial calling him out after he publicly stated he did not condone the newspaper’s reporting of a recent council meeting where the “pro-choice” group had used bizarre arguments in an attempt to have the area become “mandate free.” One woman at the elector’s meeting — which was triggered because of significant anti-vax support — even likened vaccination mandates to Aboriginal suffering in Australia. A statement by the shire on Friday stated Mr Bookless, who was first elected to the council in 2017, had stepped down from Wednesday. Shire chief executive Tim Clynch said the former leader had made a great commitment to the council and community during his period as an elected member and president. “John’s leadership and guidance will be missed,” he said. Mr Bookless sat on a number of panels and groups, including the Bridgetown Greenbushes Business and Tourism Association, Warren Blackwood Alliance of Councils and recently the State Government’s Native Forest Transition Group. He told the Manjimup-Bridgetown Times he had stepped aside to enjoy time with his wife and two daughters and said it had been the busiest six months of his life. “I could not justify staying in my position within the council with my family time lacking the way it has been,” he said. “I was leaving home at 7am to go to work and then afterwards spending hours attending council meetings, reading through emails and I just decided that something which was affecting my family life.” Councillor Jenny Mountford is now listed on the Shire’s website as president. Mr Bookless’ resignation came one week after councillor Barbara Johnson also stepped down, who Mr Clynch said had made a “significant contribution to our community.” Her stint from October 2019 included a two year term as deputy president.