This month we speak with Rebecca Tappert, Manager, Administrative Services for the Barossa Council.
Rebecca has also been a business owner, an elected member, a participant in the Rural Management Challenge and a recent graduate of the Professional Leader's Program (PLP). She shares her thoughts and insights on local government, the Rural Challenge and the PLP.
Hi Rebecca - thanks for speaking with us.
What’s your current role, and what does it involve?
My current role is Manager Administrative Services. My portfolio consists of leadership of the customer service team, management of our 19 external section 41 committees (!), management of Council’s Lease and Licence Agreements with many varied sporting and community groups, liaison with elected members through the facilitation of event management and community requests and various project / administration programs working with most internal groups of Council.
I have always been a 'Jack of all trades' and while there is scope for specialty areas within local government, this role enables me to have lots of variety and breadth of focus areas which is something that really appeals to me.
Where were you before? (i.e. what is your work background/career path so far)
After 12 years in banking and finance with Adelaide Bank in IT projects and risk management Roles, I left the bank and moved to the Barossa to start a small business with my husband, BakerST Bakery in Williamstown.
We have run our little shop for 8 ½ years now and only recently worked out that in that time, we have employed 25 locals! Something we are really proud of. Through my work at the bakery and involvement in the local 'main street committee', I was encouraged to run for the 2010 election and to my surprise, I was a successful candidate!
What attracted you to local government, and your current role?
My time as an elected member for council was fulfilling and just what I was looking for to give back to the community in which I was quickly becoming a part of. In fact, the passion for local government has only grown since then.
After 2 years as an elected member, the opportunity for my role came up and after a very rigorous recruitment, I resigned as a member and was appointed to the staff.
You were a participant in the Rural Challenge - and then went on to be a part of the Professional Leaders Program. Can you comment on what prompted you to be part of the Challenge and then enrol in the PLP?
Having the privilege of wearing many hats (as lots of us do) has provided me with great grounding to have a community member, business owner, EM and staff perspective when looking at opportunities and always having the customer/community central to everything I do.
For me, the Rural Management Challenge was a great opportunity to learn more about different areas of council that I had not been exposed to before. During the Challenge, based on a fictional council, we dealt with with unsightly premises, a workplace fatality and media controversy from an over exuberant Mayor!
While we didn’t come away with the win that year, the team based working style was great to be part of.
I had a great time on the PLP! The group of participants this year were great to work with and again, I got so much from hearing about other perspectives and problem solving techniques from different communities to my own.
My favourite session was the strategic planning session, as The Barossa Council commences its Community Plan development, it has been great to mirror the learning from the PLP direct into working life. The challenge now is to decide if I continue on with any further study!
What motivates you? - what do you find interesting or exciting about working in local government?
Working with community members that results in constructive positive outcomes is what I find really rewarding.
Being able to sell the benefits of an opportunity, whether it be to a community or sporting group or the elected members through a Council report and seeing that translate to real life implementation, drives satisfaction all round.
The ever present challenge (whether perceived or not!) of council 'red tape' and actually making things happen, puts a smile on everyone’s face. Working with my customer service team to develop their skills and local government knowledge is also motivating for me, and hopefully them too!
Speaking about your current role - people often think of the challenges in local government as being how to continue to service their changing communities - but how do you see the impact of greater legislation and focus on the administrative 'engine' of councils? What are the key issues that councils will face?
As I mentioned above, part of my role is interpreting that legislation and process for real community outcomes. I often say to community members, provide me with the information of your request and I’ll guide you through the process. I guess together, we both have expertise in the outcome. They know what they want to achieve, I have to find a way to help them achieve it!
Personally, what’s the longer term plan? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I am really enjoying my role in the Barossa for now, who would want to leave such an amazing, community, food, wine, experience orientated place? And The Barossa Council? The culture is right in alignment with what I enjoy going to work for. So unless we have any more directors retire in the next five years….I don't think I am going anywhere!!!
How do you spend your leisure time outside of local government?
I spend it with my husband and two boys, 11 and 8 who are footy mad. Between Barossa District Football Club commitments and our 2 weekly visits to the 'Portress', it leaves just about enough time for the vegie garden and mountain bike riding around the Southern Barossa!