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.