This month we speak with Jane Fetherstonhaugh, Deputy CEO at the District Council of Grant.
Jane tells us about her role at Grant and also provides some insight into the program that won the LG Professionals, SA Award for Leadership in Community Services in 2016 - the Geared2Drive program.
Hi Jane, thanks for speaking with us.What’s your current role, and what does it involve?
My role as Deputy CEO at the District Council of Grant is fairly diverse, being a smaller council it means there is plenty of variety.
My role covers most of the corporate service functions including customer service, rates, payroll, records, finance and ITC. I also look after community services including youth, tourism, events, sport and recreation. As part of my role I oversee the management of the Port MacDonnell Community Complex which encompasses a library, visitor information centre, gallery, museum, banking, rural transaction centre, Service SA and other government services.
Where were you before? (i.e. what is your work background/career path so far)
I started out in local government completely by accident. A two week stint in a small country Shire in Western Australia lasted for 7 years. I worked in a few other small councils in WA before moving to the private sector.
In 2007 I moved back to my home town of Kalangadoo, 45kms north of Mount Gambier and after a short stint as Corporate Services Manager with the South East NRM Board I commenced as Deputy CEO at the District Council of Grant.
What attracted you to local government and your current role?
I am passionate about the regions and enjoy working at the grass roots level of the community. I have always worked in rural areas and enjoy the development and implementation of community related projects across council.
At District Council of Grant we aim to give a hand up – not a hand out to our many community groups and it is satisfying to see these groups develop skills such as governance and budgeting to help them become more sustainable.
What motivates you? What do you find most interesting or exciting about working in local government?
I really enjoy the interaction with my staff and get a lot of satisfaction from seeing them develop both personally and professionally. I also love the variety. With such a diverse role, there are always new issues to be solved – usually with limited resources.
The District Council of Grant operate the Mount Gambier Airport and the Mount Gambier and Districts Saleyards which both generate significant economic development to the region. This also creates some challenges around keeping these businesses sustainable.
Speaking about your current role - Deputy CEO, District Council of Grant. With such an unusual geography (your council essentially ‘surrounds’ the City of Mt Gambier) do you work closely on any key projects or share resources with Mt Gambier? Are there any examples that you can share that might be applicable to other regional or metro councils?
District Council of Grant has a close relationship with the City of Mount Gambier and work closely on issues such as economic development and tourism.
As part of the Limestone Coast Local Government Association we have also formed a Finance Managers Group which comes together to share information and ideas. We work jointly on common projects, with the most significant one being the development of a program for Financial Internal Controls.
District Council of Grant won the LG Professionals, SA Award earlier his year for Leadership in Community Services for the Geared2Drive program. Can you tell us a bit about that program and what it meant to win the Award? Has winning the award made it easier to promote the program externally and internally?
Geared2Drive is a learner driver program that was developed to support disadvantaged rural and regional young people to gain their provisional drivers licence if unable to gain through their own means. Volunteers assist youth to access the learner driver program, further their skills and prepare them for their provisional licence, where no other support is available to them.
The program focusses on training in safe driving, risk management, communication and managing peer relationships to minimise the risk young driver’s face on our roads. The Geared2Drive program was the first learner driver program in regional South Australia. Attraction of volunteers and funding for the program continues to be a challenge, however the District Council of Grant have been proactive in maintaining momentum for this important initiative. Winning the award for Leadership in Community Services has given the program greater exposure and awareness and helped in attracting new sponsors and volunteers.
How do you spend your leisure time outside of local government?
My husband and I run a small beef and sheep property at Kalangadoo which is where I grew up. We are both very involved with the local football club which as in most small towns is the heart of the community.
I also sit on the Mount Gambier and Districts Community Bank Committee (Bendigo Bank), ACCare (Anglican Community Care) and am chair of the Grants Committee the Kalangadoo War Memorial and Sporting Club.