• 29 Jun 2020 12:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This month we chatted with Nat Traeger, Chief Executive Officer, Kingston District Council about her career, being a long time supporter of LG Professionals SA and working at a rural council.

    We’ve been following your career journey for many years now – can you tell us where you started in local government and where you are today?

    Well it’s been a lengthy journey that has taken me to places and given me experiences I never would have imagined when growing up in the small rural community of Coonalpyn.  When I started (way back in 1987, quite obviously when I was 10 years old!) my late grandfather was an elected member and my late father was a community facilities team member of the then Coonalpyn Downs Council.  It was that exposure to local government and the opportunity to secure a role in my local community (I hadn’t adjusted well to city life) that saw me start as a casual in the Tintinara office, some 33 years ago.

    Casual turned to permanent, amalgamations came 10 years later, and this directly resulted in opportunities to access varying and higher-level roles due to the increased size of the organisation.  Having by that time held customer service, administration, finance and human resource positions, I secured the Manager Corporate Services role with the now Coorong District Council in 2007.

    My natural passion towards community development saw me start managing a few new and different projects for the Council.  The Acting CEO at the time, and now one of my highly regarded mentors John Coombe, expanded my portfolio and I became the Director Community & Corporate in 2011.

    By that time, I had two amazing daughters, relocated to Tailem Bend, built a gorgeous house on the River Murray and wasn’t contemplating any sort of career change.  I’d also never truly aspired to be a CEO; I was comfortable at the Director level and never actually backed myself to take that next step – until last year.

    A cancer diagnosis and personal issues made me really think about my future and readjust some of my life and career goals.  Overcoming life challenges gives you confidence to tackle anything, so I decided to go for it!

    I was fortunate to secure the Kingston District Council CEO role mid last year.  The sea change has been so much more than I’d anticipated.  I’ve never looked back nor regretted my decision to take a major deviation in both my career and personal life.

    You’ve been a member of LG Professionals SA for over 10 years! Being involved with our rural management challenge, leadership excellence awards, network forums and conferences, what’s your highlight so far?

    You just can’t go past the leadership excellence awards!  I love the challenge of pitting your projects and achievements against others in the sector.  From recognising your team by making them the subject of an award nomination, to developing the submission, finalists’ announcements and ultimately being part of the annual gala awards dinner is affirmation and recognition of a job well done at the highest level for our industry.

    The Kingston team had not participated in the leadership excellence awards prior to my arrival and the fact that we are a finalist this year, up against two large metro councils has been a fun-filled and rewarding journey.  It makes you realise that it doesn’t matter how large your budget is or what resources you have on hand, the collaborative teamwork that you are doing is making a difference to your community and we should all take every opportunity to recognise and reward that.

    How cool is it that thanks to COVID-19, ALL our team members can join in the celebrations given that the virtual event is virtually free?  The only minor disappointment is not being able to frock-up but we are still looking forward to some light refreshments and being more inclusive with who can attend the award ceremony.

    Now that all has been revealed and Kingston District Council were announced the winner of the Excellence in Local Economic Development award last Friday, what do you think this award means to the Council, your staff and the community?

    You only need look at our Facebook page to see what this means to our community; our award win has been one of our most engaging posts this year, reaching an audience of over 3,300 people.  In this time where we are working on community connectedness and recovery, this sort of promotion and sense of pride has been a major boost for a region that has been doing it tough in 2020.  As for our council and staff, we are such a great team, that when the announcement was made and my acceptance speech was done, I came out to tears from the Mayor and a couple of the staff.  So yes, it meant a lot to have affirmation that bold decisions are recognised, worth it and vindicated at the local government logies!

    What would be your advice for others thinking of entering in the future?

    Take the Nike approach – just do it!  Think well in advance about the categories and their criteria and try and capture thoughts along the way to contribute towards the award submission.  Don’t leave it until the last minute, involve the team through brainstorming and input into the nomination and lastly, give it the time it deserves.  Now I have given away my trade secrets, I’d better start working on our 2021 nomination!  

    Why do you like being part of the LG Professionals SA community?

    The level of investment versus the rate of return is value for money in terms of opportunities to network, access to professional development and being part of a team of like-minded people and stakeholders with the ultimate end game of working for the community.  I would at some point in the future, like to have a more hands-on, higher level contribution to LG Professionals, whether that be through the Board, or other representational opportunities.

    What is the most satisfying thing about working in Local Government?

    The people – whether it’s your team, your contractors, your consultants, ratepayers (love them the most), community members, visitors, tourists – just so many different people.  Yes, they are at times our biggest challenge, but they are why we do what we do, to make things better for the people.

    In terms of being in a leadership role in local government, it is being able to provide a solution to a problem that might generally be out of reach individually.  For example, following a devastating spate of male suicides in a short period of time in my previous role, I was able to respond by founding and leading the ‘Conversations Matter’ Suicide Prevention Network.  At a time when the community needs you the most, being able to deliver outcomes which are effective and truly make a difference is very rewarding.

    In more recent time, being able to lead the local recovery for our Keilira community ravaged by bushfire in late 2019, and knowing how much those property owners have appreciated you going that extra mile, because you are local government and that’s what we do, has been the most satisfying thing about my new role to date.

    During these uncertain times, what do you see as the biggest challenge for your council, and regional councils more generally?

    Our Council area is unique in many ways and we are faced with a different set of challenges to metropolitan councils, and in indeed many rural ones.  We have a seasonal population and economy, an ageing demographic with over 100kms of coastline with some 25kms actively being managed during a period of impactful climate change weather events.  Further, we have a vast rural and agricultural area which expects, and rightfully so, a serviceable and well maintained sealed and unsealed road network.

    Notwithstanding the on-going general challenges, by far the biggest hurdle we need to get over is our marine infrastructure in Kingston and Cape Jaffa; balancing the community’s expectations with what we can reasonably deliver and afford with a small income base is a conundrum that we are faced with every day.

    That coupled with developing acceptable and affordable strategies to help our community recover from a dual bushfire and pandemic crisis, with very limited resources will remain a challenge for an indefinite period.

    When reflecting on regional councils more generally, I’d suggest sustainable asset management, attraction and retention of good quality and skilled staff combined with maximising tourism, post disaster stimulus and economic investment opportunities will be common issues.

    Finally – what do you enjoy outside of work? How do you spend your leisure time?

    I love doing what we are all now being encouraged to do – explore your own back yard, whether that is literally or figuratively.

    A good old road-trip, weekend camping adventure, camp-oven cooking, fishing, geo-caching, shopping, 4WD’ing and cruising along the beach.  If I am not able to get out and about, I enjoy pottering in my recently acquired house, cooking, socialising, table tennis, tending to my ‘succulent farm’ and catching up with family and friends on social media.

    My absolute, ultimate favourite past-time is op-shopping – just love a bargain or finding that quirky treasure that you can re-purpose or restore!

  • 25 May 2020 4:48 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This month we chatted with Marianne Tucker, Manager Organisational Development, District Council of Grant about her role and working at a rural council.

    What is your current role and what does it involve? What does a typical day look like for you?

    I’m currently the Manager Organisational Development with the District Council of Grant and operate within a small team offering strategic and operational expertise in the areas of organisational development, human resources, industrial relations, work health and safety, and risk management.

    There is no typical day in my current role which is one of the reasons I have chosen to continue to work in local government - I like the variety and challenges that it brings!

    What attracted you to work in local government? 

    I honestly didn’t know much about local government when I applied and achieved the position of Costing Clerk after completing studies in accountancy. However, it didn’t take long to realise the diversity of job roles in local government.

    My career has taken me through roles in finance to Rates Officer, design and implementation of an electronic records management system for the then District Council of Mount Gambier. Our Council ‘consolidated’ with the neighbouring District Council of Port MacDonnell to form the District Council of Grant, and my new role became Senior Administration Officer.

    From there I developed a passion for human resources and moved into the role of Manager Organisational Development. During this time, I undertook study and achieved HR Certification through the AHRI Practising Certification Program (APC).

    It is this diversity of roles and the opportunity for growth and learning that motivates me to continue in Local Government, and to advocate it as a career to others.

    What is the most satisfying thing about working in the sector, especially in a rural council? 

    It is not boring! I enjoy the diversity and challenges of working in a rural Council with not only the office and depot but an Airport, a Saleyard, and a Community Complex at our largest township Port MacDonnell. In the regions, we are able to utilise our knowledge and skills across a range of issues, and it is satisfying to contribute widely and to be continually learning.

    You’re a member of our People and Culture Network. How important has it been to stay connected with this network during recent times?

    Local Government is constantly evolving and therefore networking is key to navigating through the challenges and celebrating the milestones.

    Since COVID-19, the People and Culture Network have provided a regular ZOOM networking session for HR practitioners. This has not only been tremendously valuable from the information sharing and discussion perspective, but also for the wellbeing aspect of participants.

    Can you share a highlight from your experiences with LG Professionals SA?

    Through my years as a HR practitioner, I have been involved with and advocated for inclusion of regional and rural practitioners in People and Culture Network discussion groups, networking and working parties not only to contribute and participate, but to learn from metropolitan colleagues.

    However, distance, time and travel have been a continuing issue for myself and other rural and regional practitioners.

    The recent ZOOM networking meetings that LG Professionals SA has facilitated have been a game-changer, presenting an additional option for future People and Culture Network calendared events. 

    How do you spend your leisure time outside of local government? 

    My husband and I have three beautiful children and living in the great South East of the state we enjoy exploring the pine forests, natural forests, beaches and of course the Blue Lake and Valley Lakes area. I like to unwind in the garden and enjoy being creative.

    I choose to give back to the local community and have been on the St Martins Lutheran College Council for over 15 years, currently Chair, and also a number of sporting and community groups over the years.

    Currently my passion is acrylic and watercolour painting, and I am looking forward to completing my current creation (which has been in the works for some time) and especially excited to visit overseas art exhibitions in the future!

  • 27 Apr 2020 11:18 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This month we chatted with Hugh McIntosh, Manager, Marketing Operations from City of Adelaide about his role, being a LG Professionals SA Board Member and his thoughts on staying connected.

    What’s your current role and what does it involve?

    I enjoy a breadth of responsibilities including leading three full-service ‘marcom’ teams that partner with the wide variety of departments across the City of Adelaide, supporting our three commercial businesses (U-Park, the Adelaide Aquatic Centre and the North Adelaide Golf Course) and supporting our Marketing Strategy Specialist. As a bit of a marketing-nerd, I also enjoy leading the marketing for the soon to be redeveloped Central Market Arcade.

    You are one of our newest Board Members – what inspired you to nominate? What do you hope to achieve as a Board Member? Any advice for others considering this path?

    As a privileged attendee of the inaugural Executive Leaders Program, I was moved by the professionalism of the course, the relevance to my needs and those of local government executives and surprised by the impact it had on attendees: literally life-changing for some. With a life-long belief in ‘giving back’ to that which you value, when nominations for the board went out, it was an easy decision.

    Whilst community focused nature of local government makes the work innately rewarding, to further support and develop those who play a fundamental role in making our cities and regions better places to live, beyond my council’s boundaries, is a main objective for my time on the board.   

    For those considering a similar direction, my advice would be to set your sights high in local government, seek the counsel of those who inspire you and continually ask yourself: what else could I be doing to make a difference? Actively networking regularly with peers from other councils will help broaden your knowledge whilst extending your support base.

    Being part of the Executive Leaders Program Alumni how do you think the learnings from this program are relevant in the current COVID-19 world? What would you say to others thinking of undertaking the Executive Leaders Program?

    In the opening half hour of this six-day program, the concept of ‘VUCA’ was introduced – a situation and response model where how much is known of a situation and how well the outcomes of actions can be predicted are key metrics. It is safe to say, this pandemic has us at the extreme ‘Volatile’ quarter – a situation that’s unexpected / unstable and compounded by an unknown duration. 

    The course developed participants leadership ‘tool kits’ to manage themselves and others in increasingly unpredictable situations or scenarios; embedding skills and approaches I have leaned upon heavily of late. Every participant was challenged to get out of their comfort zones, into their ‘productive zones of disequilibrium’, question their past patterns of behaviours and thought processes and become agile leaders in the face of evolving, increasingly complex challenges.

    If you can attend this exceptional program, you absolutely should; you won’t come out the end of it the same, to you, your organisation and your team’s benefit.

    Can you share some tips for staying connected during these uncertain times?

    There is no shortage of advice and digital ‘connectivity’ tools flying around at present, so alongside these I say also keep it as simple. Whether introverts or extroverts, we have evolved as social beings. Working from home and social distancing can have unexpected impacts on wellbeing and health. Make sure you reach out to co-workers or your teams weekly at a minimum without an objective or purpose. Chew the fat, laugh about ‘that awkward Zoom meeting’ and generate those ‘water cooler moments’ that often only become apparent in their value when they disappear.

    For those with a step counter in their watch or device, if you’re anything like me you’ll have noticed how much more sedentary we’ve become when working from home. Personally, I’ve made a point of increasing exercise and breaks from the desk and done my best to reduce those fridge and pantry ‘drive-bys’!

    How do you spend your leisure time outside of local government?

    These days my spare time includes long family walks, catching up with our close-knit-neighbours, improving my ‘handy-man’ game and occasional travel, especially to Japan (for which I have a ceaseless fascination). That said and without doubt, Daddy-Daughter time is a biggest and most valued pastime.  

  • 24 Feb 2020 11:42 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This month we chatted to Adrian Skull, Chief Executive Officer, City of Marion about his role, and his thoughts on trust and collaboration.

    What is your current role, and what does it involve?

    I’m very lucky to be the City of Marion’s Chief Executive.  My primary responsibilities include working with staff and elected members to set the direction of our organisation; implementing and integrating the strategic direction of Council; making major corporate decisions; managing the overall operations and resources of Council; acting as the main point of communication between the Council and operations and being the public face of Council alongside the Mayor.

    I need to have a strong awareness of both the external and internal landscape; and in a changing world, a capacity to seize opportunities for collaboration that will benefit all parties to the partnership.  I need to be a cheerleader for our staff and a champion of the organisation’s values and have strong networks across the sector, State and Federal government, businesses and community groups.

    What is your career background to date?

    I’ve had a few career moves in my working life. After University (Flinders) I travelled for a year overseas and then joined the Army.  I served six years, finishing as a Captain.  During that time I married my beautiful wife and when I left the services we went to live in Switzerland where I worked in a Swiss Hotel Management College.  I ended up as the Academic Dean of the Domino Carlton Tivoli (DCT) College in Lucerne.

    Our twin boys were born in Switzerland – and after 4 years, we came home because, in our opinion, Australia is the best place to bring up children.  I ran my own training business for 3 years, and then joined BAE Systems as Tender Manager where I was put in charge of the Australian part of a global change program for the company.  Our third son came along during that time. After 5 years at BAE I left to be the HR Manager at the City of Charles Sturt and then I followed my then-CEO to Adelaide City Council.

    After ACC I ran my own consultancy business for about 9 years before I joined the City of Marion as GM.  I followed that job with the role of CEO of the District Council of Yankalilla and then 4 years ago I came back to Marion as CEO.

    What do you enjoy most about working in local government?

    I really love the community side of our sector.  I feel passionate about delivering for our community and they are genuinely at the forefront of everything we do.  

    We’re thrilled to have you as part of the program for our 2020 Annual State Conference. Can you tell us a bit about what factors are essential to successful collaboration? 

    Successful collaboration is not easy – and we’ve learnt that in our recent collaborations with Port Adelaide Enfield and Charles Sturt.   To succeed, it needs unwavering commitment from the CEOs of the collaborating organisations and regular reinforcement of that commitment to working together.  It’s not for everyone.  But when it works, the benefits are sensational.  You need trust (to be trustworthy and trusting), energy, focus, courage and the capacity to share a vision that will mean that sometimes you will benefit less than your partners – but overall you all come out in front.

    Why is collaboration important?

    In our sector we aren’t, or shouldn’t be, competitors.  When you really work together you will see the gains possible through creating synergy.  Every Council does many of the same things – and we duplicate resources to do those things.  If you collaborate you reduce cost – and the ratepayer gains. 

    What is the most exciting initiative that City of Marion is currently involved in? Any big projects on the horizon?

    There are lots.  We have a new football club facility at Morphettville in train and some exciting smart developments around the new Oaklands Railway station. In the near future, we are going to build an international standard BMX track and a new soccer facility on Major’s Road, O’Halloran Hill.  We will also be building a new sports hub and neighbourhood centre at Mitchell Park and we will be doing some exciting streetscape projects across the city.  Internally we will be investing resources into building better systems over the next few years. We’re also working to evolve our volunteering offerings to capture people who have lots to offer but don’t want to do the ‘traditional’ Council volunteering things – and we are planning for our future workforce which we think will be quite different for many roles.

    Finally – what do you enjoy outside of work? How do you spend your leisure time?

    I love kayak fishing with my three sons.  We also watch our youngest play soccer for Cumberland in the Adelaide Premier League.  I love our diverse group of friends, and I love our family. My favourite night of the week isn’t Council meeting night (surprise!!) but our weekly ‘family dinner night’ when we all get together.

    My wife and I love to travel – and we do two or three weekend breaks every year. We will be getting a new dog this year, which we are excited about.  We lost our Labrador last year and we miss the pitter - patter of little feet in the house and the love that dogs bring.

  • 24 Jan 2020 12:35 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This month we spoke with Chris Campbell, Digital Communications Officer at City of Tea Tree Gully about his role, his recent experience completing our Emerging Leaders Program and how he is planning for the future.

    What is your current role and what does it involve?

    Digital Communications Officer. My focus is customer and employee digital experience - transforming services and bringing processes online for continuous improvement. This includes managing our online forms, CRM’s, website, reports and analytics. It’s a real mix between digital content creation and digital services.

    How long have you worked in local government and what is your career background to date?

    I’ve worked in local government for almost 7 years, all with the City of Tea Tree Gully. Previously I worked in media: TV News, 3 years at the ABC and 3 at Channel 9. My work there consisted of news video editing and news transmission. I made the move to local government to work on the ‘other-side’ of media, in what started out as a more traditional communications role. Quickly this transitioned into having a digital focus, and hence to the role I’m in today.

    What do you enjoy most about working in local government?

    I didn’t know a lot about local government before I started, but like a lot of people, quickly realised how much local government does. I’ve really enjoyed getting a better understanding of all the things that support a community, from the operational to the events and opportunities.

    I always find myself looking towards the future and sharing the possibilities of what could be and where we could go. So I suppose being a part of a team and organisation that’s working towards that, and looking at the best way to build a resilient, safe, innovative and sustainable place to live is exciting to be a part of.

    January is often a time for reflecting on the year that has passed and planning for the year ahead. What does this look like for you?

    2019 was a year to just get stuff done. I was pretty exhausted by Christmas and really enjoyed the holiday break. In an ideal world the plan for 2020 would be to spend more time planning, less time doing (on the business not in the business). I’m hoping to focus on presenting and sharing ideas, continue my own professional development and focus on where I can add the most value to the organisation.

    You recently completed our Emerging Leaders Program. What were your biggest takeaways from this program?

    I really enjoyed the course. For me there were two things that stood out.

    1. Weaved throughout the course structure were models and systems to support our understanding of behavioural & cognitive psychology, and how this relates to leadership, teamwork and organisational culture. I found the mix of these topics really engaging and it renewed my interest in personality profiles and psychology.
    2. The Team. The 2019 Emerging Leaders were an amazing group of people. We all connected and formed a close friendship. I feel that for all of us, as our careers evolve throughout local government, we now have an extended network to be able to lean on and collaborate with.

    What advice would you give someone who is thinking about doing the Emerging Leaders Program?

    Jump in. Admittedly there was probably more group/assignment work than I had previous imagined, but this is all part of the challenge. It’s a good course that explores workplace culture, who you are and how you fit within it. If not for the learnings, the network and friendships you make along the way are invaluable.

    Finally – what do you enjoy outside of work? How do you spend your leisure time?

    Being a dad with 2 young children a lot of non-working time is spent with them. Bike riding, skateboarding, sports. But I love to travel and we try and get away to a national park a few times each year for camping, hiking and exploring the wilderness. Working on a computer for so much of my day, it’s always nice to get outdoors and enjoy the natural world. Catching up with mates and of course Netflix is also a nice way to relax.

  • 27 Nov 2019 1:47 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This month we spoke with Karen Rokicinski, Director Corporate and Customer Service  of City of Victor Harbor, about her role, professional development journey and the exciting things happening at City of Victor Harbor. 

    We’ve been following your career journey for over a decade now- can you tell us where you started in local government and where you are today?

    I started in local government in 2004 as an Environmental Health Officer with Alexandrina Council, who took me on before I’d even graduated from university. 15 years later, I am now with City of Victor Harbor as Director Corporate and Customer Service.

    Wow - and how did you get there?

    I have been most fortunate to have had opportunities to take a number of small upwards and sideways steps into different roles throughout my career so far. After a few years as Environmental Health Officer with Alexandrina Council, I was promoted to the role of Team Leader Environmental Health. Then a few years later after a small internal restructure, I was successful in my application for the role of Manager Health, Environment & Regulatory Services. Whilst in that role, I put my hand up to undertake a number of small secondment roles in other portfolio areas (including within the engineering, infrastructure and open spaces areas) and was given the chance to act in a number of different General Manager positions. Then following the resignation of the CEO in 2016, I was afforded the opportunity to step into an interim role as General Manager Engineering and Environment whilst the organisation recruited a new CEO and underwent a restructure. Shortly after the organisation restructure was complete and the position finished up, I moved to neighbouring council, City of Victor Harbor, taking up the role of Director Corporate and Customer Service, and that’s where I am now. In amongst it all, I also did further study and professional development including a Master of Business Administration.

    You’ve been to lots of our conferences over the years. What role did professional development and networking play and what advice can you give to those considering applying for a role?

    Professional development has played a crucial role in my career journey. In particular, experiences in my early career which included the Local Government Management Challenge and the Emerging Leaders Program, helped me to develop my people leadership skills after starting out my career in a technical role. These programs, as well as formal study, have prepared me for each next step. I think it’s really important to continue learning across your entire career through specific programs as well as through your network of peers. There’s so much we can learn from the experiences of others, and taking the time to listen and consider advice is a pivotal part of our personal and professional growth. Finding a suitable mentor for where you are at in your career journey is also important and can provide you with an objective view as to where you need to invest further in your skills and experiences. Attending conferences and seminars is also important to keep us motivated, inspire us with new ideas and ensure that we continue learning.

    For those considering applying for a role, being a regular face in local government events and programs, and getting involved will ensure that you are considered to be someone who is committed to and invests in the sector. This, coupled with your skills and experience, will help others to understand what you can bring to any new role that you are applying for. Consider finding a suitable mentor or coach to help develop parts of yourself that will help you be ready for the next stage in your career - listen to, and actively implement their strategies and advice.

    There are lots of exciting things happening at the City of Victor Harbor- what are you most excited about?

    It definitely is an exciting time to be working at City of Victor Harbor and there are many things that I am looking forward to being a part of over the coming months and years. In particular, seeing the outcomes of a number of key developments within the Victor Harbor town centre and foreshore – a new causeway to Granite Island, further development of an arts and culture precinct, as well as the next stages of the Main Street upgrade project, to name only a few.  Within the organisation, we are embedding a strong customer focus in all that we do and finding ways to improve the services that we provide to our community. It’s been exciting reflecting on the ways we deliver our services and improving our processes, including through better use of technology, to make them more efficient and provide value for our customers.

    Finally, how do you integrate work with your life? Any advice?

    It requires discipline and careful planning to make sure you can fit in everything that you need to and want to get done. My advice is to make a realistic plan which includes both your work and your personal needs (being sure you have made sufficient time for the things and people you love!). Review your plan regularly and communicate your plan so that others know how they fit into it. Then be strict with yourself about sticking to the plan. When you commit to something, give of yourself completely and be present in the time and space that you give to it. Of course you sometimes have to be prepared to flex, but this is generally a good formula for me. Oh, and listen to your body - it will tell you if you’re overdoing things and then it’s important to adjust your plan so that your work and life are sustainable.

  • 31 Oct 2019 10:34 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This month we spoke with Matthew Morgan, CEO of The District Council of Karoonda East Murray, about his role, the importance of investing in professional development and the challenges facing regional councils.

    What's your current role, and what does it involve? 

    I’m currently CEO of the District Council of Karoonda East Murray.  With a small team, this involves being both strategic and operational as well as being the public representative of Council along with Mayor Caroline Phillips.

    You have worked in local government for over a decade. Where were you before Karoonda East Murray?

    My local government journey began in 2003 at the Hepburn Shire Council in my hometown of Daylesford, Victoria.  I started out as a part time IT Assistant and worked my way up the organisational chart to Manager Governance and Information before moving to Adelaide in 2009 to take on the role of ICT Manager at Centennial Park Cemetery Authority, which is a subsidiary of City of Unley and City of Mitcham.  Again, my role changed there various times to incorporate much broader management activities and portfolios, before making the jump into full time parenthood in 2017.  That came to an end in January 2018 when I took on the role at Karoonda East Murray.

    What do you enjoy most about working in local government?

    Delivering outcomes for the community is the part I enjoy most about my role and working in Local Government.  This year for example, we’ve designed and built a new child care centre in Karoonda, and for the first time, Council has developed a service delivery model which provides for child care to the community, 5 days a week.  In a small community like ours, these projects are the ones that will deliver huge long term rewards for the community.

    The District Council of Karoonda Easy Murray recently entered a joint team with Southern Mallee District Council in the Rural Management Challenge.  What were some of your highlights from the experience?

    Assembling a composite team from two small rural councils, just 3 weeks out from the Rural Management Challenge was a huge task, given the limited resources and small teams that we have on the ground to deliver council services anyway.  The highlight for me, was seeing the team come together, bond and work extremely well together on the Pre-Challenge tasks and on the Challenge Day tasks.  It was also a great opportunity for me to have some time with peers as we observed the teams go about their tasks throughout challenge day.

    Why is it important to invest in the professional development of your staff?

    Learning is a lifelong activity and it's important that all staff are provided with opportunities for professional development that helps them to acquire new skills and knowledge and also to build new networks.  More and more, to achieve the outcomes expected of us, we need team members to be both learned and connected.

    What do you see as the biggest challenge facing your council, and regional councils more generally?

    Resourcing and financial sustainability are clichés, however are very true and relevant in our situation.  For a small council with an annual budget of around $4M, 15 staff and community assets valued at $70M the challenge of meeting our basic compliance obligations, let alone service delivery or strategic planning and project is always going to be a finely balanced game of pick and choose and making concessions.  It highlights the importance of having a good process established for identifying external funding opportunities to bring $$ into both Council and community.

    Finally – what do you enjoy outside of work?  How do you spend your leisure time?

    I’m not quite sure that I’ve got the work life balance quite right yet, it’s a work in progress, however outside of work you’ll usually find me with my wife and two young boys doing what good Dads do, playing and being silly.  I also enjoy a glass of wine, relaxing at our property down at Second Valley and taking the drone for an occasional flight.

  • 30 Sep 2019 12:30 AM | Deleted user

    This month we spoke to CEO of City of Charles Sturt and newly appointed President of LG Professionals, SA, Paul Sutton, about collaboration, reform and his vision as President.

    You have just commenced your term as President of LG Professionals, SA—what is your vision for the Association over the next twelve months and beyond?

    The association has a fabulous reputation as the premier professional development provider for the Local Government sector. We are working from a strong baseline and have a bright future. I look forward to building the professional capability across local government - as well as maintaining technical and leadership capabilities.  Enhancing trust with our communities and stakeholders across Councils is critical.  We must act with honesty and transparency as we address issues including Local Government reform, the China Sword and SKM led waste crisis, and the continued roll out of NDIS and its effects on our communities in the context of changing demographics and economic pressures in SA.

    The City of Charles Sturt together with the City of Port Adelaide Enfield and the City of Marion are working in a uniquely collaborative way—can you tell us about that and what factors are essential to council collaboration?

    Simply put, together we are all stronger, smarter and can be more efficient. The leadership teams of each our 3 councils has a clear resolve to work together for the benefit of our communities. It will work if we are actively engaged, open to new ideas and humble about putting aside our tried and true techniques and methods as willing to partners. It is easy to say, but can be both confronting and rewarding, as long as you are willing to put constructive energy into both the task and the relationship! 

    What advice do you have to local government professionals who may be feeling uncertain about reforms?

    Reform can be an opportunity, not a threat. I believe our sector, our communities and the State Government all want the same thing –  relevant and efficient services that add value to the lives of each person in our communities. In that context, we should explore the opportunities to work better together, to think about how we can reduce red tape (self and externally imposed) and consider everything from a community value perspective..

    Finally, with such a busy role and still finding time to volunteer within the sector, how do you maintain your energy?

    I’m lucky to work with a great team of colleagues where everyone shares the load and we support one another. Personally, I exercise regularly and put effort into my family and personal relationships. Having a break and planning time away is important for me to stay balanced. So good holidays are always great to look forward to – especially a weekend at our shack on Kangaroo Island.

  • 30 Aug 2019 10:27 AM | Deleted user

    This month we spoke to Johanna Williams about her role as General Manager, Rundle Mall Management Authority, and what inspired her to take part in our Executive Leaders Program this year.

    You work for a council subsidiary – can you tell us what challenges are unique to a subsidiary vs working in a council?

    As custodian of the Rundle Mall Precinct, RMMA’s role is to deliver economic benefits for our traders, our property owners and for those who work in and visit the Mall. That means we’re delivering a specific part of the City of Adelaide’s agenda under the governance of a Board comprising retail, property and marketing professionals as well as Elected Members.

    We work semi-autonomously, developing our own strategy and initiatives for the Precinct, drawing on the expertise and information within Council and with accountability to the Elected Members.

    An added overlay is the wider stakeholders we serve – the people of South Australia – who see Rundle Mall as the heart of Adelaide and are invested in what happens here.

    We look forward to having you participate in our Executive Leaders Program this year. What inspired you to take time out of your busy schedule and commit to the program?

    Given Rundle Mall needs to lead the way in South Australia, I’m striving to build my leadership capabilities so I can keep fostering the innovation culture that’s essential for RMMA‘s ongoing success. I also need to lead a talented team through a complex environment of constant change and diverse stakeholders so I’m looking forward to gaining a deeper appreciation of my leadership style and how to lead with authenticity. Meeting other senior leaders to share experiences and learn from one another will also be invaluable.

    What is the most complex challenge you are facing in your role at the moment?

    Future proofing Rundle Mall against the rapidly changing retail landscape while preserving the memories every South Australian has of the Mall. In some way Rundle Mall features in most people’s life milestones, so how do we retain that when we’re considering what the Mall should be in 10 or 20 years from now? It’s a challenge to balance that big picture strategy against the short-term delivery of campaigns, activations and leasing that draw visitors in and supports our traders and property owners.

    Finally, what keeps you busy outside of work?

    When I’m at home I like to unwind in the garden. I’ve just finished creating my first vegetable patch so I’m looking forward to planting seedlings for summer. I also enjoy travelling and exploring new destinations and heading to the footy – it’s just a shame 2019 hasn’t ended so well for the Crows, Port Power or for my Swans!

  • 31 Jul 2019 11:28 AM | Deleted user

    This month we spoke with Deb Larwood, CEO of The District Council of Kimba, about her role, the challenges she sees in the region's future and how Council is preparing itself to overcome them.

    What is your current role and what does it involve?

    I am currently employed as the Chief Executive Officer of The District Council of Kimba and have been in that role for nearly three years. This involves overseeing the strategic operations of Council including asset management, finance, strategic planning, governance and human resources, as well as working closely with the elected body of Council.

    What is your favourite thing about your role?

    I really enjoy the opportunity to work closely with the community and the elected members to help achieve their goals for the Kimba District. Local Government is a unique organisation and prior to working within the sector I didn’t realise how extensive and varied a role a Council plays. I like being actively involved in the community and enjoy the chance it gives me to play my part in helping the community prosper and reach its full potential. This is also made more appealing through working within the community in which I live, whose residents are resilient innovators embracing emerging economic opportunities to position the town for a sustainable and vibrant future.

    What is your career background to date?

    I performed in the role of Manager Corporate Services at the District Council of Kimba for a period of ten years before becoming the CEO. Prior to my involvement in Local Government I worked in the banking sector as well as being what I term a professional volunteer with an involvement in a vast number of community organisations.

    You have been a member of LG Professionals, SA for over 10 years! How does this membership benefit both you and your council?

    For me probably the most significant benefit I have received is the opportunity to network with other CEO’s and staff members of Council, as well as using LG Professionals, SA training and conference forums to enhance my capabilities as a CEO. Over the course of my 12 year career in Local Government I have been fortunate to attend around 8-9  of the LG Professionals Australia National Conferences, as well as numerous state conferences, CEO Forums along with completing the Professional Leaders Program, a three-day intensive leadership session and  a  number of other training initiatives.

    I believe that professional development is an essential component of both the CEO role and the leadership role and see the training that not only I have undertaken, but also other Council staff and the elected body as an investment in the organisation. LG Professionals, SA allows this training and exposure to other information gathering forums to be readily accessible. It is centred on Local Government and showcases the expertise they have in this area, as well as providing an opportunity to network with other individuals involved in the sector.

    To ensure the benefits of LG Professionals, SA is available across the organisation the District Council of Kimba currently provides membership to the Senior Management team. In addition, in November 2018 Council sent the applicable administration staff to the LG Professionals, SA Women's Network Conference, not only as an acknowledgement of their commitment to Council throughout the year, but as an opportunity to expand their local government knowledge and develop relationships with other Council personnel. The feedback from this conference by staff was extraordinarily complimentary and the benefits gained have far exceeded the cost to Council. It is my intent to make this event an annual sojourn for administration staff when possible.

    You are registered to undertake the Executive Leaders Program, which will commence in August. What are you most looking forward to as part of this program?

    At the recent NGA Congress, David Pich from the Institute of Managers and Leaders ran a session on ‘the six layers of intentional leadership’ and categorised the term ‘the accidental leader’. I identified with his theories and recognised the need to be well versed in the art of leadership. I am constantly looking at ways of improving management leadership capabilities and am looking forward to the insight the program will provide me in this area. I am keen to hear the concepts around traversing changing environments and enhancing our adaptive thinking capabilities.

    Local Government is constantly evolving, and I think that as CEO’s we need all the help we can get to navigate through these times. In addition, the networking that is always a component of these programs provides us with the ability to see what other Councils’ are doing in the Local Government Sector. 

    In these times of constant change, there is a huge focus on planning for the future. What initiatives are District Council of Kimba implementing to enable you to be future ready?

    When it comes to summing up Kimba Council’s attitude to planning for the future, the best three words to describe Council’s approach would be innovation, adaptation and community.

    Kimba is lucky to have a progressive Council who are open to looking beyond the traditional means of future proofing both the Council and the community. A key focus and priority for Council is playing a proactive role in the recruitment of a doctor to provide GP Services to our town and hospital. Whilst it is not a traditional role of local government bodies, Council has chosen to campaign strongly with other tiers of government and have allocated significant funds to secure this service.

    Council is also in the throes of completing a Community and Economic Development Strategy. Over the past two years we have secured in excess of two million dollars in grant funding which has allowed us to complete such projects from playgrounds, independent and affordable aged accommodation to water catchment initiatives. Tourism is also a focus and Council has set up a self-contained camping area to increase tourism visitation to our town.

    In the 2019-20 budget, funds have been included to develop plans for a potential expansion to the Council-owned health centre. We are also investigating power line undergrounding and upgrades to the main street. All of these initiatives are part of the long-term planning of the Council and will be included as part of Council’s Strategic Plan review which is underway.

    From the perspective of the District Council of Kimba it is all about Council positioning itself to be able to maximise all the opportunities that present into the future.

    What do you see as the biggest challenge for your council, and regional councils more generally?

    The biggest challenge I see for the District Council of Kimba, and many other regional Councils, is the current declining population of the district and the challenges this creates in the community through the constant need to lobby for the continuation of infrastructure development and service delivery. Subsequently, this flows into a decline in people using facilities which then presents Council with a difficult decision as to what is the best use of Council resources and where these limited resources should be allocated. Do we prioritise the playground, or do we allocate these funds to assets better utilised within the community? There is a perception within communities, including Kimba, that Council’s should keep operating these assets long-term even when the numbers do not support the decision. ‘Councils need to do more with less’ is a common mantra that we hear and this is becoming more prevalent as time goes on. This issue is also exacerbated with the constant cost-shifting we see from other levels of government and along with the effects of declining population Council’s long-term sustainability and the capacity to maintain adequate level of services to the community is at risk into the future.

    Finally – what do you enjoy outside of work?  How do you spend your leisure time?

    I am currently studying a Bachelor of Government and Public Management, which takes up a considerable portion of my spare time. With the little bit that’s left over I enjoy reading, travelling, catching up with family and friends on a regular basis and watching a good movie. Shopping is also a favourite past time of mine and one I’m very good at.

Mailing Address: 148 Frome Street ADELAIDE SA 5000   Phone: 08 8224 2080   Email: admin@lgprofessionalssa.org.au

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