This month we speak with Deb Richardson, Director, Community Development at the City of Port Adelaide Enfield.
Deb speaks to us about her role, her advice for aspiring leaders, what motivates her - and why she values "getting involved"
What's your current role - and what does it involve?
I’m the Director Community Development at City of Port Adelaide Enfield. I get to lead a great group of people to work with our community so PAE can be a place people can experience high wellbeing, have opportunity and generally be somewhere people love to be.
It’s easy (and at times relevant) to describe our work as functions such as Libraries, Development Services etc and it’s also important to not lose sight of what they all add up to, the things we’re all really here for.
Where were you before? (what‘s your career background to date?)
Where haven't I been? I've been doing a career tour of Local Government. Prior to PAE I was at Adelaide Hills Council as Director Assets and Engineering, which was a step out of community development and recreation where I have spent most of my working life.
I started out in recreation and aquatic centres and over time moved into Community Development and then into wider leadership roles.
What do you enjoy most about working in local government?
Lots of stuff, especially things starting with “p”…people, public good and just quietly I do like a bit of politics. I get paid to work as part of our community to help make PAE and our world the best it can be.
I’m challenged, I learn, I make mistakes, I laugh, I meet interesting people, I see the tangible benefit of our services, I am part of our democracy and I try and make a difference, that’s a lot to like. There is stuff I don’t like too, but you didn’t ask me that and they don’t start with p, so that will mess with the vibe I’ve got goin’ here.
You recently attended the inaugural HR conference. What did you take away from that conference that you could put to use back in your workplace?
A few things really got me thinking, how we can work more quickly, take a “start-up” approach and still ensure we apply effective governance?
I enjoyed hearing from other Councils that are taking a more regular and immediate approach to measuring culture and will also be sharing my personal development plan widely which was suggested as part of the discussion about transparency in organisations.
On a lighter note, I enjoyed the laughter yoga, you can’t have too much laughter in life so perhaps we’ll be doing a bit of that at PAE (I can hear people fleeing our office as they read this).
You regularly attend the GM network forums. What are the main reasons you stay engaged with the GM forums? If you were advising another GM to attend – what would you say are the main benefits of attendance?
In addition to getting to catch up with great peeps, share information and ideas I look forward to being out of my day to day work and returning inspired and energised.
As senior leaders we have an obligation to support the development of our industry and we have a unique opportunity to work together to solve the complex problems our society faces without being restricted by a sense of competition and confidentially that would restrict us in a private business environment.
And as an added bonus it’s usually fun; good life advice, always sit at the fun table.
As a member of LG Professionals, you can sit back or get involved and maximise the value of your membership. You are clearly someone who gets involved! What do you see as the main benefits, to you and your council – of getting involved?
Opportunities to share and learn with others are reminders that we are not only part of a Council, we are part of a wider industry that can work together, share knowledge and ideas and challenge each other to be our best.
While it does benefit us as individuals in our own learning and career development the biggest benefit should be to the community, they pay us and they deserve us to be the best we can be. We often talk about having engaged and involved communities and then don’t do it ourselves.
I’ve also been participating in the Executive Leadership Program. It’s one of the best learning experiences I’ve been involved in and I’d highly recommended it if you are prepared to challenge yourself and stretch your thinking.
What advice would you have for someone wanting to further their career in local government? Where would they start, what skills and attitude would they need, what connections are important?
If you are already in local government take every opportunity in your workplace, apply for acting roles, join project groups, get involved outside your area of expertise, be prepared to do things you’re scared of and don’t think your career is more important than doing your job.
Connect with others in Local Government and also make sure you learn from outside LG especially from all the people in your community, they know lots of stuff that you and I don’t.
But most of all remember that a rewarding career in LG is not necessarily about climbing a ladder it’s about doing the best we can, doing what we enjoy and doing something that benefits others.
Finally – what do you enjoy outside of work? How do you spend your leisure time?
I love trail running, travelling and that I live in a City with art, theatre and a festival for everything!
I think my next career move is to be a professional attendee of festivals, if I'm not doing that I'm probably gardening or planning a revolution.