This month we speak with Henry Inat, CEO of the Town of Gawler.
Henry talks about his experience to date, the challenges facing Gawler and what motivated his recent appointment to the LG Professionals SA Board.
Hi Henry, thanks for speaking with us.
What’s your current role, and what does it involve?
I’m the Chief Executive Officer at the Town of Gawler. I commenced this role in February 2012.
The role is both challenging and rewarding. Leading an organisation of 115 staff with a budget of approximately $25m has its diverse scope of issues and responsibilities. It's all about team work and getting the best out of people (both staff and elected members) to make positive contribution’s to the local community.
Where were you before? (i.e. what is your work background/career path so far)
I’ve worked in the local government sector for nearly 25 years. I’ve worked in eight councils over this time period in various positions. Being a qualified town planner, I started my career as a development assessment officer, then progressed into planning policy.
Having decided that I wanted to ‘broaden my mind’, I studied business management which then took me on journey with various management roles in councils. Prior to commencing my role as CEO at Gawler I held general manager positions at the City of Charles Sturt and Mount Barker Council respectively, both of which were fun times and held me in good stead for my current position.
I thank both Andrew Stuart and Mark Withers for their years of support and mentoring over this period.
What attracted you to local government, and your current role?
Having studied Town Planning at Uni, working in local government was a natural first move for many in the field. Over the years I increasingly enjoyed working in councils where it was about more than just conventional planning and development matters.
The capacity to participate in multi discipline teams to create and form communities was initially a key force in me realising that councils existed in a dynamic and ever changing context which I could influence. So I’ve stayed.
When exploring my interest in management I found again that by understanding and studying business and people, better outcomes could be achieved. Not ever thinking at the time that I would be a CEO, an opportunity presented itself and I decided to apply for the challenge.
It has been a great three years at Gawler.
You’ve recently been appointed to the LG Professionals Australia, SA Board, starting after the AGM. What did you know about LG Professionals Australia, SA prior to your appointment - and what motivated you to nominate for the board?
I have been a beneficiary of the LG Professionals SA services for some years now, having appreciated the support services they provide the sector.
I have been wanting to be more active for some time and the time is now right for me to join the board and assist in working to progress the strategic direction of the organisation and help it continue to positively influence the sector grow over the coming period.
What motivates you? - what do you find interesting or exciting about working in local government?
Local government is so diverse. As a CEO you deal with the whole spectrum of issues and people. The capacity to see things on the ground is a real ‘buzz’. To know that you can really make a difference if you put your heart and soul into it is what drives me and keeps me excited about going to work.
Also, the people I work with currently and who I have had the pleasure of working with over the years have made the work all the more pleasurable. There’s a real feeling that we are all part of a collective and the competition that does exist between councils at times is constructive and to everyone’s benefit in the long term.
Gawler is poised for rapid growth – what challenges and opportunities does this present?
From a community creation perspective the challenges are very much about ensuring urban growth that is occurring progresses as naturally as possible and new residents establish real links to the existing community. We don’t want the 'them' and 'us' dynamics setting in.
As with many growth areas around the state, central to our current planning and policy initiatives relative to growth is to ensure the timely provision of infrastructure to meet current and future needs such as conventional roads, reserves, community services etc, but also, and just as importantly, council advocating on behalf of the community for services and facilities that the State and or Federal Governments, private and non-for profit sectors are responsible for.
The organisational challenges are to ensure we have the right mix and level of skill sets throughout the organisation to meet both today's and tomorrow's challenges. A key focus area at the moment at ‘Team Gawler’ is to better understand our culture and to strive for a more constructive and supportive team dynamic- we are getting there.
Personally, what’s the longer term plan – where would you like to be in 5 years?
It's been a successful first three years at Gawler. I’m sure the next few years will be just as exciting and I’ll continue to make a contribution in building a strong and constructive organisation. There are no plans to move on. There’s too much to do here at Gawler.
Do you have an embarrassing 'local government moment'?
Happy to share a couple of stories with my colleagues over a few drinks. I’ll leave it at that I think.
How do you spend your leisure time outside of local government?
Time is precious. Having a young family, it's all about finding time to be at home and watching Alice (8), Lily (7) and Tomas (5) grow up.
I’ve also got jobs to do on the weekends as instructed by Susie, my wife, which doesn’t leave much time left over. But when I do have a few spare minutes, catching up with friends for a meal and a few drinks always helps to keep things in perspective.