This month we speak with Gordon Thomson, Director, Corporate & Community Services at the District Council of Loxton Waikerie.
Gordon explains his approach to 'investing in self' and also discusses the importance of ensuring that staff, especially in regional areas, maintain access to ongoing learning and development.
What’s your current role, and what does it involve?
I am currently Director Corporate and Community Services with the District Council of Loxton Waikerie and have been in this role for almost 12 months. The role includes responsibilities for the corporate side of Council’s business; the full range of community services activities and regulatory services including planning and building functions.
You've had a diverse career - can you share some of your background? Coming from those roles, what attracted you to local government and your current role?
I have worked in a range of public sector agencies over the years from a long stint in State Parliament as Clerk Assistant in the House of Assembly, to roles in what was previously DFEEST and Treasury and Finance.
I worked for a number of years in the New Zealand public sector, have undertaken business consulting in Queensland and have had a contracted period with a regional council in western NSW. It’s fair to say the decision to move to local government is based on wanting to work more closely with my local community to make a positive difference.
You're a new member of the Community Manager's Network - what important role does the network play in facilitating learning and sharing of ideas cross the sector?
The network gives me an opportunity to stay abreast of ideas and issues, to develop contacts that are helpful not just for me but my wider team and allows the sharing of information in a collaborative way.
Speaking of learning and development - in your opinion, how important is it to invest in one's own development? How have you approached this, personally, in the past, and currently?
Ongoing learning and development are very important to me. I am currently working through a Master of Business Administration.
I have also maintained a professional membership with the Institute of Public Administration (having previously been President of the NZ body for a couple of years) and I am a Fellow of the Institute of Managers and Leaders.
What advice do you have for younger professionals looking to advance their career, in terms of investing in themselves?
There is significant merit in looking at both taking up or extending areas of study linked to employment and as I have mentioned above in exploiting membership organisations such as LG Professionals, SA to build a network and keep up with trends and issues.
It’s also a great way to meet people with similar goals and interests and build these relationships.
Working now for a rural/regional council, how important is a pro-active approach to professional development? Do rural/regional staff sometimes feel left behind? Or is it the opposite?
It is often easy to overlook your professional development when you are working in a remote area but this should give us a greater motivation to make sure we don’t neglect ourselves.
There are a number of online opportunities that can be explored and perhaps we should be considering the establishment of regional ‘branches’ or at least get together with colleagues on a regular basis and developing forums to discuss and share ideas.
What motivates you? What are you most passionate about in local government?
Working with individuals and communities to make a positive contribution is what drives me. Our challenge is to identify ways to deliver the expected outcomes rather than getting stumped by any particular obstacle.
Finally, how do you spend your leisure time outside of local government?
I am a keen gardener and grower of organic fruits and I enjoy making my own wines (and of course sampling them).