This month we speak with Kate Jessep, Director Corporate and Community Services at the City of Victor Harbor.
Kate explains her diverse career background and how it shapes her approach to Local Government. Kate also discusses the interesting challenges and opportunities for Community Services that arise from servicing an ageing population.
Hi Kate, thanks for speaking with us.1. What’s your current role, and what does it involve?
I am currently employed as the Director Corporate and Community Services at the City of Victor Harbor. My responsibilities include: Finance, Rates, Human Resources, Risk and Work Health Safety, Customer Service, Property, Records, Information Communication Technology, Community Services, Library and deputising for the City Manager.
2. Where were you before? (i.e. what is your work background/career path so far)
My previous position was General Manager Organisation Development at Alexandrina Council. I have more than five year’s experience in Local Government which includes time working in Victoria as a Strategic Planner at the City of Hobsons Bay. Prior to my career in local government I spent more than fifteen years in the Australian Regular Army as a logistics officer.
I’ve been very fortunate to have had lots of opportunities to study (BA, Grad Dip HR; Grad Dip URP and a number of certificate courses), travel (I’ve visited 23 other countries so far!) and work in different environments over the last twenty five years (I’ve worked in five states and territories in Australia and three other countries).
3. What attracted you to Local Government, and your current role?
I love planning, having variety in my work and serving the community so I undertook a Graduate Diploma in Urban and Regional Planning to assist my career change from the military to local government. Although similar to my previous role, I applied for my current role in order to gain experience in a wider portfolio including finance and for additional opportunities to gain experience as acting CEO.
4. How do you think your military background has assisted your approach to Local Government and your current role?
I approach local government as a sector which serves its community and consider my role is to support the department, the City Manager and the Council in delivering services to the community in a fair and effective manner. My values of service and fairness were definitely inculcated during my time in the military. By the time I was 23 years old I was commanding fifty staff, a workshop and nine Army watercraft and quite a bit of firepower.
The leadership training and experience from my time in the Australian Army assist me everyday in my endeavours at the City of Victor Harbor as I solve problems and support our team in service to our community.
5. What motivates you? - what do you find interesting or exciting about working in Local Government?
I love that local government works so closely with the community and that I get to be involved in services and activities which make a difference. For example, since I've been at Victor Harbor, I have had a lead role over the last couple of years in the successful funding bid for the Fleurieu Regional Aquatic Centre which included developing the project to ‘shovel ready’ status.
After more than 30 years of our community asking for a public swimming pool, we expect construction to commence in the middle of next year.
6. Victor Harbor is one of Australia's oldest communities (by median
age) - what challenges and opportunities does this present for Community Services?
Victor Harbor is a growing community and has very high level of volunteerism - both of which make it a positive environment in which to operate and means we have fantastic programs such as community transport driven by volunteers. However, as the ageing trend continues the biggest challenge for Victor Harbor is to attract and retain younger adults to provide the services to support our ageing and retiring population.
7. Personally, what?s the longer term plan ? where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In the next 5-10 years I would like the opportunity to be a chief executive officer in local government. Further into the future, my husband and I are quite keen to pursue another opportunity to live and work overseas.
8. Do you have an embarrassing "Local Government moment"?
In about week two after commencing at Alexandrina Council I managed to walk into a large pillar that was in the hallway which resulted in breaking my favourite glasses and a few stitches. The details of how I managed to do this aren't that interesting; although, I do think there is a design issue with a large pillar sitting in a narrow walkway, not far in from the corner!
9. How do you spend your leisure time outside of Local Government?
I'm not sure if being a mother is 'leisure time', however; my husband and I are blessed to have two fantastic children and of course it is very rewarding spendimg time with them. Personally, I've just started training for the Bupa Tour Down Under Community Ride in January and I'm looking forward to establishing our small garden at our new house.