This month we interview Mark Dowd, CEO of the City of Onkaparinga.
Mark speaks about his background and his approach to the challenges of local government. Newly elected to the position of President of LG Professionals SA, Mark also speaks about why he was keen to be involved with LG Professionals and his plans for the future.
Hi Mark, thanks for speaking with us.
What’s your current role, and what does it involve?
My current role is Chief Executive Officer, responsible for the delivery of Councils overall vision.
Where were you before? (i.e. what is your work background/career path so far)
Prior to taking on the role of CEO at City of Onkaparinga I spent the last 15 years working in the ICT/Technology sector with my most immediate past role being General Manager for Optus Business. Before that I have worked in numerous other management roles across different sectors.
What attracted you to local government, and your current role?
I had spent a lot of time working with Governments over the last 15 years, understanding their business requirements and objectives and working with key decision makers on how technology could help assist them in achieving their goals so I was no stranger to the sector.
When the role became available I did some research into Onkaparinga and the vision for the Council and was extremely impressed by the way Council approached its business, the vision it had for Strong Vibrant Communities and the strategies that had been developed to make this a reality.
Local government as a sector is certainly challenging but it is also very rewarding. There are not too many other sectors that provide you the opportunities to work across so many diverse fields- it’s a good sector to be involved with.
What motivates you? What do you find most interesting or exciting about working in local government?
Success. Delivery. Strategy. The ability to bring a team together and think outside the box, put aside the commentary of ‘that’s how we have always done it’ and work with people who are looking to implement change and push the boundaries. That’s exciting.
I believe the sector in general right now is really embracing change and looking for opportunities that may not have been considered in the past or may not have been considered to be the role of local government. My team are doing a great job in turning over every stone and looking for an edge.
Speaking about your current role - Chief Executive Officer, City of Onkaparinga. What are your key priorities for the next 12-24 months for Onkaparinga?
We are focusing on developing a sustainable and vibrant community. I have put in a lot of time and effort working with business to ensure that opportunities exist for our city and our residents. We are launching an ON Business partner program in December which brings all of our sectors together for the greater good of the South.
We have completed a comprehensive service review framework that shines a torch on council and asks the hard questions about whether what we do is aligned to our community's needs, are we the best people to be delivering the service, if we are how well are we actually doing and are there ways we could improve what we do.
Lastly we are looking for opportunities to consolidate our infrastructure, community centres and facilities and work towards creating vibrant hubs that deliver a range of services and really activate a community.
As Onkaparinga is a growth council that still includes some rural and regional areas - what challenges has that presented and how have you managed them?
Being such a large and diverse council does present different challenges. The North of our city is already significantly developed whilst the South continues to grow. The blend of metropolitan and rural challenges is also something that we work hard to manage.
Because of our size and demographics we are breaking the council down into 7 districts. Each part of our City has its own unique characteristics however underlying these there are many commonalities.
When we look at council as a whole we need to be as efficient and effective as we can in our service delivery, economies of scale, considered and structured works programs.
When we look at a district in its own right, what are its unique characteristics? What makes it special and how do we capture and enhance that?
You are the new President of LG Professionals, SA. Why were you keen to be a part of LG Professionals, SA and what are your plans for your term as President?
I think LG Professionals, SA does a fantastic job of delivering programs for local government staff. The programs and conferences are targeted and meet the needs of the sector and are not just run for the sake of running a training session. LG Professionals, SA does a great job of engaging the sector at many different levels and is always looking for ways to provide better opportunities for administration.
I am looking forward to my time as President. I hope to bring a different point of view to the board. I am looking forward to working with Taryn and the team to look for new opportunities. It is important that when we consider how and what we can improve on as a sector we look not only within our industry for answers but to also engage outside of our industry for a different point of view.
I believe there are great opportunities for better collaboration and recognition within the private sector.
How do you spend your leisure time outside of local government?
What a great question. I like to play golf if and when I can and also spend a bit of real time and not face time with the family and kids before they bugger off and leave home.