This month we speak with Sarah Philpott, Director Corporate Services at Port Adelaide Enfield and new board member of LG Professionals SA.
In this interview, she tells us about her decision to return to local government after a time away - and why she chose to nominate for the LG Professionals SA Board.
Hi Sarah - thanks for speaking with us.
What’s your current role, and what does it involve?
I am the Director Corporate Services at the City of Port Adelaide Enfield and have been here since February 2015. I see my role as supporting the council and organisation to achieve outcomes for the community.
My portfolio includes city development, financial services, information technology, information management and governance, so I have a great diversity of inwardly focussed support services and outwardly focussed community building aspects to my role.
Where were you before? (i.e. what is your work background/career path so far)
My immediate past role was as the Director of Higher Courts Services at the Courts Administration Authority which was a complete change from my previous executive roles within local government.
I learnt an enormous amount about justice and working in the state government sector which is very useful in my current role. Before that I was General Manager Corporate Services at Cairns Regional Council and Director of Community and Corporate Development at the City of Marion. Much of my career has been in local government but having commercial experience and state government experience is of great benefit too.
What attracted you to local government, and your current role?
I enjoy working closely with the community and being in a sector which has capacity to determine a direction and be nimble enough to respond to it. I have also been very privileged to work with many outstanding people in local government, who have a strong alignment and commitment to making a difference to people’s lives.
My current role attracted me because it was an interesting portfolio, in a community which is very diverse and where there are really exciting things on the horizon. In organisational terms, we are going through significant change and I like to be part of leading cultural change and creating a great place to work.
You've recently been appointed to the Local Government Professionals Australia, SA Board - what inspired you to nominate for this? What do you hope to achieve as a board member?
My decision to return to local government after 3 years with the Courts was all about re-connecting with this profession and the great work that we do.
I have also been very lucky to have a long association with the LG Professionals Australia Management Challenge and like the values of LG Professionals SA about learning and development of our people and that encouraged me to join the Board.
I am interested to understand what members want from LG Professionals SA and how we can ensure the work adds value for people in the sector.
What motivates you? What do you find most interesting or exciting about working in local government?
The variety, the great characters you meet and seeing results – I can look back on my time in local government and feel that I have made a real contribution.
What I have loved most is seeing the capacity of our community grow and watching team members develop new leadership capabilities.
Speaking about your current role - Director of Corporate Services - what are you most proud of since you've held that role? What initiatives or new ideas have you employed that might be valuable for other councils to use or try?
I have spent a lot of time getting the right people into the right roles for us – an example is in economic development, where we have been working very actively for the past several months in a completely new capacity for our Council.
For me, creating a team that builds on the strengths of our existing people and adds new capability into that mix sets us up for a positive future – and that’s something to be proud of!
Personally, what’s the longer term plan? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
It will be where I am learning and being challenged and loving what I do.
Do you have an embarrassing ‘local government moment’?
I always cry at my farewells – not a good look! So I have decided the answer is to either:
1. Don’t leave or
2. Avoid your own party!
How do you spend your leisure time outside of local government?
Real relaxation happens in my garden – there is nothing quite like getting your hands in the dirt and weeds to connect to the physical world when we spend so much time at work in our heads and in relationships.
I love a good book, going out for a lazy lunch on Sundays and cooking.