Member stories

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  • 26 Oct 2017 11:46 AM | Anonymous

    This month we speak with Merissa Decelis, Business Engagement Analyst at the City of Charles Sturt. 

    A graduate of a number of LG Professionals, SA Programs, Merissa speaks about her experience of attending the Management Challenge and the Emerging Leaders Program - and how all the LG Professionals, SA programs 'knit together'. She also reflects on the skills needed for her role and her plans for the future.
     
    Hi Merissa, thanks for speaking with us.

    What is your current role and what does it involve?
    I am currently working as a Business Engagement Analyst within the Information Services portfolio. My role is to essentially act as the primary point of contact between the Portfolios and Information Services.

    This involves facilitating the identification of technology, system and business challenges, identifying, defining and implementing improvements, communicating the priorities and future direction of the IS Portfolio to the business and managing projects across the business.

    Where were you before? What is your work background/career path so far?
    I started at the City of Charles Sturt as the Information Services Trainee straight out of high school! I did 14 months at the City of Mitcham in their Records team following my traineeship and have been back at the City of Charles Sturt since 2006.

    I have had a number of roles in the Information Management team and was lucky enough to have an opportunity to work as a Community Development Officer in our Cheltenham Community Centre for two months last year before winning my current position.

    What attracted you to local government and your role?
    I honestly didn’t know a lot about local government when I got my traineeship. It didn’t take me long to appreciate the diverse range of career opportunities that I could pursue.

    My current role was attractive to me for a couple of reasons: Firstly, it enabled me to interact with different parts of the business and continue to develop my knowledge of local government and, secondly, it was something new that would challenge me and force me out of my comfort zone.
        
    What key skills do you think are important for success in your role?
    In my current role, having good organisational skills are essential for me to be successful as I am managing a diverse group of portfolios as well as projects. Given the range of areas and tasks I am required to cover, it is really important that I can be flexible and prioritise my tasks.

    A flow on from that is being a really good communicator and ensuring that I am keeping my portfolios up to date with how tasks are going, as well as keeping the Information Services staff in the loop with what is happening within the business.
     
    How have LG Professionals, SA programs contributed to helping you develop some of these skills?
    There are definitely elements from all of the programs I have participated in that have helped develop these skills. The self-awareness, insight into my preferred working style and experience with working in a large and diverse group that I gained from the Emerging Leaders Program have definitely aided me in working across such a diverse range of portfolios, with very different needs and priorities.

    Participating and mentoring in the Management Challenge allowed me to become more comfortable with not being in control and being able to plan my work day. Developing the ability to be flexible and juggle priorities has been really beneficial in being able to do my current role.

    All programs have allowed me to continue to build my communication skills and I have definitely picked up some tips and techniques from facilitators and other participants.
     
    Looking back/reflecting on your own professional development, what are the most valuable programs you’ve participated in through LG Professionals, SA? Why?
    While I have found all of the programs to be really beneficial, I think participating in the Management Challenge was the most valuable for me.

    I participated quite early on in my career and the confidence, experience and exposure I gained from participating was invaluable. I still draw on those learnings to this day.

    The relationships that I built during that time, both internally and externally, have had a huge impact on me both personally and professionally.

    Could you comment on the way the whole series of programs you've been through with LG Professionals, SA ‘fits together’ to create a long term learning and development experience?
    For me the series of programs have been a perfect fit for the varying stages of my career. Starting off with participating in the Management Challenge gave me a great insight into the local government sector. The Emerging Leaders Program involves a lot of self-reflection and self-learning and sharing that experience with such a large and diverse group prepared me to put my hand up to mentor the challenge team.

    The relationships I have built through the LG Professionals, SA programs have been so important and I am now a member of the Women’s Network and really enjoying working with the group.

    What does the future hold for you? In terms of planning, career wise, where do you see yourself in the future?
    I wish I knew!! I’m really lucky to work in an organisation that is so supportive and has given me so many opportunities. I am really enjoying my current role and how it is pushing and challenging me every day.

    As for the distant future, I am slowly working my way through a Bachelor of Business (Sports Management) so ultimately I see my future working in or with the sport and recreation industry – in what capacity, I am still undecided but I have a keen interest in junior development and player welfare.
     
    Finally, how do you spend your leisure time outside of local government?
    Outside of work I enjoy travelling – I am off to Mexico and North America next year, reading a good book, and I am loving the warmer weather and going for a walk at the beach!

    Uni takes up a fair bit of my spare time during the year too. I am a huge sport fan so I also spend a lot of time watching a variety of sports.

  • 23 Sep 2017 9:18 AM | Anonymous

    This month we speak with Clint Watchman, Coordinator of Urban Policy at the City of Salisbury.

    Clint talks about his about his new Team Leader role and shares some of his insights into what makes a good team and team member.

    Hi Clint, thanks for speaking with us.

    What is your current role, and what does it involve?
    I am currently the Coordinator of Urban Policy at the City of Salisbury. It’s a team leader role and there are three other staff in the team all with a range of urban planning, policy, project management and development backgrounds. The role sees me working across council collaborating on a variety of Strategic Urban Planning and Design projects while also leading a team of very experienced planners and project managers.
     
    Where were you before? What is your work background/career path so far?
    I started my career as a graduate Urban Designer at Delfin Lendlease where I spent 5 years working across multiple projects. Most notably I was involved in the design of the later stages of Mawson Lakes and the master planning and feasibility of large scale residential communities like Blakes Crossing and Springwood.

    I then moved to local government as an Urban Designer for the City of Onkaparinga where I worked across council on urban renewal, town centre regeneration and cross organisational promotion of good planning and design.

    Looking to move closer to home I started working for City of Salisbury coordinating the design of their residential land developments and delivering a strategic assessment of council land for potential residential development. My most recent position (and fortunately being able to stay with Salisbury) is Coordinator of Urban Policy.
     
    What attracted you to local government, and your role?
    Starting my career with Delfin Lendlease was a fantastic training ground and gave me great insight into the private sector, however I always had a keen interest in urban renewal and town centres. I moved to the City of Onkaparinga to diversify and get practical project experience within the field of urban planning and design.

    It’s fair to say I underestimated how much of a professional and cultural change it would be and that I had a lot of lessons to learn. As a long term career decision it was the right one and has lead me to the opportunities I have now.

    My new role provides the perfect opportunity to blend the practical urban design and planning experience I have with my natural instinct to think analytically, strategically and about the long term impacts council decisions have on the community. Most importantly I was eager to take on a new challenge and a team leader role.
     
    What motivates you? What are you most passionate about in local government?
    My primary motivation has always been the same, to create great places for the community. Local government is the primary custodian of public places and they have the means and resources to positively contribute to those environments.

    As local governments diversify, they become more attuned to what makes great places and communities. I am most passionate about how governments can organise themselves, be smart, strategic and informed so that they can make the right decision for the health of the community. This means I am interested in all aspects of local government and motivated to continue learning about how to achieve positive outcomes within a local government context.
     
    How would you describe a ‘team’ and how many different teams are you currently a part of?
    I would describe a team as a group of people with varying expertise working towards a common goal. In this context a team could last for a long time and be formally established or just be a short term ‘working’ team to achieve a specific purpose.

    I’ve lost count of how many teams I have been a part of and have transitioned across different teams within organisations via organisational restructures and for other reasons.

      It’s been a great experience being part of so many teams and my key takeaway has always been to understand people’s strengths, work to them and adapt wherever possible.
     
    What qualities as a team member do you feel are common across all of these teams?
    For the strategic nature of work we do I think forming good working relationships across an organisation is critical and the concepts of a good working ‘team’ can be stretched outside of the administrative team structure.

    At a fundamental level for the type of work we do I think people should feel comfortable to explore ideas and concepts and that the process of discovery is well supported. It’s also important to balance this with achieving results and feeling a sense of achievement.
     
    The team you are currently leading is fairly new. What have been your key priorities and approach in establishing a new team?
    Yes, it’s only been four months and we have a very big agenda. To start I have been focused on learning about our portfolio and how this fits within the organisation, what are the priorities and how do we create our own projects to be proud of.

      I am discovering more and more about the rest of the team as time goes on and getting to know what individuals abilities and working styles are and how this can contribute to our team agenda. I would like to focus on working with the team on how we best integrate across the organisation to make projects and concepts as successful as possible.
     
    What factors do you feel make a successful team?
    While being very new to formal leadership, I have been working as a part of teams throughout my career and I think the reasons for success have typically been the same. In my experience motivation, keeping things moving forward and sharing project experience is fundamental.

    I also understand that different staff may have different opinions or expectations on success and understanding what may be important to them is also an important part of the journey.
     
    You are participating in this year’s Emerging Leaders Program. What impact has it had on you so far both as a team member and as a leader of a team?
    The timing has been perfect for me. Even though doing the course does take up time it’s been very insightful. The team management profiling was incredibly useful.

    It has given me greater awareness into my working styles and preferences and how I can work with this in the context of teams.

    The training sessions have also been very timely and pitched at the perfect level for me as I learn more about being a team leader and working across an organisation at a higher and more strategic level.
     
    Finally, how do you spend your leisure time outside of local government?
    I have two girls, one 15 months and the other just turned four. This means that most of my leisure time is spent with the family on activities around the house, going to playgrounds and visiting friends.

    As the weather improves we spend a lot of our time outside enjoying the garden and each other’s company. When the V8 Supercars are on TV I’ll generally try and watch the race in amongst our other activities.

  • 26 Aug 2017 8:03 AM | Anonymous

    This month we speak with Trevor Smith, CEO of the District Council of Tumby Bay.

    Trevor talks about the importance of taking time out to focus on planning for the future, why ongoing professional development is essential and also highlights the exciting projects in the pipeline for Tumby Bay.

    Hi Trevor, thanks for speaking with us.

    What’s your current role?
    I am currently the Chief Executive Officer at the District Council of Tumby Bay and have been in this role since 2013.

    Where were you before? What is your work background/career path so far?
    I have been employed as a CEO and in corporate/governance roles in seven local governments across South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria. I have also worked in the Victorian Department of Local Government, mainly on policy development, grants and legislation.

    In the local governments that I have worked for there has been a range in population from 700 (Mukinbudin, WA) to 40,000 (Wellington, Vic) and a range in area from 1,500 sq km (Mount Alexander, Vic) to 121,000 sq km (Wyndham East Kimberley, WA).

    Working in local government over the past thirty years; and especially in Victoria before, during and after the Jeff Kennett inspired amalgamations; I have concluded that the expression "may you live in interesting times" (an English expression purported to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse) was probably the working title of the first Local Government Act.

    What motivates you? What are you most passionate about in local government?
    It is rewarding to work with communities and help them achieve their goals. I recently attended the Local Government Professionals Australia congress in Hobart and heard David Morrison quote “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. In local government the culture of the community is always going to dictate the extent that a council can help them achieve their goals.

    I recently spoke at a Tumby Bay Progress Association meeting and told them what a pleasure it was to work with a group of people who want to take ownership of their own initiatives to improve their community.

    Small wins, like delivering projects that the community has asked for, can be infinitely more rewarding than building a multi-million dollar piece of infrastructure that might be vital, but it’s just expected to be in place without anyone actually requesting it.

    What is the most exciting initiative that your Council is currently involved in?
    For sheer potential the proposed port at Cape Hardy, located between Port Neill and Tumby Bay, could be the most exciting and economically significant development in South Australia in recent years. Cape Hardy forms part of the multi-billion dollar Iron Road proposal for an iron-ore mine, railway and export facility.

    Importantly the federal government are examining linking the port to the national rail network. With third party access to the port for grain and other bulk exports, and with the potential for container movements, this facility could be an important cog in freight movement patterns in Australia for many years.

    From time to time it's important to take time out, reflect on what's important and plan for the future. How do you motivate your team to take time out to work ‘on the business’ or rather just ‘in’ it?
    At Tumby Bay I’ve been incredibly lucky to have inherited an executive team who understand the importance of planning for the future as well as fulfilling the daily requirements of running a local government. We all understand the benefits of continually improving our internal processes and in working with our immediate neighbours and with local governments across the Eyre Peninsula.

    We are more focussed on incremental improvements than a transitional change. And while the opportunities for extended naval gazing are rare, if the organisational culture is to always be on the lookout for how we can do something better, then change will happen. Opportunities are all around us. Our minds need to be accepting and open to change.

    The shock and awe tactics of populist politics (think amalgamations and rate capping) may force rapid change but not all change is beneficial to our communities.

    How do you personally take the time to do this? How do you balance the ‘urgent’ vs the ‘important’?
    This is where having good people in your team is vital. And it’s not the size of the organisation it’s the quality and the culture. If your employees are given the freedom to undertake their work and take responsibility for their actions, including the odd mistake, it’s amazing how much time that frees up. And you will have a happier and more productive workforce.

    Don’t micro-manage. If you’ve delegated a task don’t look over shoulders. But make sure that employees know you are there to provide assistance when needed. And give your employees at least one ‘get out of jail free’ card. Our council recently had a three minute special meeting to correct a ‘typo’ in the rate setting statement. Shit happens – get over it and move on.

    How important is taking time out for professional development - from both a personal and organisational point of view?
    Professional development is essential. Time and money should be allocated to ensure that employees can keep up to date with industry best practice and legislative changes, and to interact with peers in the sector. Training is an investment – not an expense.

    When a CEO tells me that they can’t afford one or two days out of the office – it makes me wonder what happens to their organisation when they go on leave.

    On a personal level I’m just finishing an MBA undertaken in my own time. I hope I am always learning, whether formally or sub-consciously. And at the rate I forget things there should be plenty of room in the brain for new stuff.

    Do you or your staff members attend any LG Professionals, SA events or programs? What has your experience been of these programs from a CEO perspective?
    LG Professionals, SA events are like any training - some programs will appeal and some will not. The National Congress and Business Expo is traditionally always good and, importantly, always looking to improve. That’s also true of the State based events. If you, or your staff, aren’t attending then tell LG Professionals, SA why.

    Rural Councils often need to look at innovative solutions due to cost pressures and lower staff numbers. What’s an example of an innovation or innovative thinking that you’ve seen during your time at Tumby Bay?
    Since I’ve been at Tumby Bay there has been a focus on shared services with our neighbours. This is an incremental process and to date has only been undertaken on a needs and benefits basis rather than being a philosophical journey.

    On a larger scale the Eyre Peninsula Local Government Association and The Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure recently signed a memorandum of understanding to examine the delivery of shared services. This has great potential for all local governments on the Eyre Peninsula to achieve significant savings and improve our capabilities and capacities by working with DPTI; initially on maintenance items but with the potential to extend to more significant works.

    Finally, how do you spend your leisure time outside of local government?
    Hang on; I just need to google this ‘leisure’ thing.

    Dictionary definition: time free from the demands of work or duty, when one can rest; enjoy hobbies or sports, etc.

    OK. That would be bowls, actually a lot of bowls including a week at country carnival in Adelaide each year. Fishing - in Tumby Bay that’s practically compulsory. Walking - I try to walk for one hour a day to unwind and think (or stop thinking). Our National Parks are brilliant - spent a few days walking through Wilpena Pound a couple of years ago, doesn’t get more relaxing.

    And under the terms of my contract I’m obliged to tell you all to holiday on the Eyre Peninsula. No seriously it’s really good.

  • 21 Jul 2017 4:37 PM | Anonymous

    With the 2017 Rural Challenge on the horizon, we speak with Pamela Lee, General Manager, Council Business Services at the City of Mount Gambier.

    Pamela has long background in successful change management and she speaks to us about her experiences in running change management projects within a metropolitan council as well as in her current role, at Mt Gambier.

    Hi Pamela - thanks for sharing your experiences and ideas with us.

    What is your current role and what does it involve?
    General Manager, Council Business Services responsible for leadership and driving change and improvement across finance, customer service, strategic and business planning and performance reporting, rates, governance, administration, property, IT and knowledge management.

    This is involving a focus on developing high performing people/teams, plans, systems and processes aligned to the strategic direction of the council, its Community Plan and supporting suite of strategic documents, engaging the elected members, stakeholder and enhancing its constructive culture and values.

    Where were you before? What's your career path so far?
    My career path may be viewed as diverse, unique and a little quirky/unusual. For me it is enriching, fulfilling and rewarding encompassing the private sector (banking, insurance, superannuation), federal, state and local governments and board appointments in the not for profit, education and university sectors.

     My first position was in IT within the mining sector. Along the way I have completed a Bachelors Degree in Applied Economics, an MBA, post graduate studies in strategic management, governance, risk, and the Australian Institute of Company Directors course. I believe in and am committed to life long learning, developing and supporting colleagues
    and staff. 

    Can you tell us a little bit about what you’ve been up to in between leaving Tea Tree Gully and starting at Mount Gambier?
    A combination of advisory, facilitative and strategic roles including:
    - a 12 month contract as program director working with the Minister for Emergency Services and chiefs of the MFS, CFS and SES to facilitate a sector strategic plan with 21 priority strategies, establish a program management office and develop capacity and capacity in the PMO and senior leadership across the sector.

    - a 15 month contract with the Dept. Treasury and Finance project managing the privatisation of SA’s compulsory third party insurance including overseeing the relationships with the four private sector insurer and ensuring they were productions, systems and operationally ready for 1 July 2016 ‘go live’ date.

    - board membership.

    You’ve been involved with quite a few change management projects. What are your top tips for leading through change?
    As is reported in case studies, courses and change management literature, an unhealthy percentage of change projects and projects involving change don’t succeed.

    In my experience change management success is contingent upon a clear and shared vision and scope, aligned and actively supportive leadership, resilience, accountability,  the right people/subject matter experts, strong project and change (people side of change) management, comprehensive risk management, stakeholder engagement and communications.  Celebrating and acknowledging team effort and successes.  And the value adding post implementation / project review / close out report objectively documenting project outcomes, benefits, capturing and sharing the learnings.

    How do you quickly become part of a new team?
    I have had an amazing opportunity at both the Cities of Tea Tree Gully and Mount Gambier to be appointed as part of a new senior executive team following organisational restructures.

    This presents a unique and exciting opportunity to grow, develop and experience together as a team. In my experience this has delivered greater levels of synergy, momentum and outcomes than might otherwise have occurred including: building resilience and collaboration, driving change and business improvement, innovation and cultural development and impact.

    Fundamental for me is investing in the new team particularly getting to know, understand and spend quality time with my peers; being affiliative, humanistic, encouraging, maintaining personal integrity; understanding and drawing upon the strengths of your peers. 

    What are your observations on the differences between working for a metro and regional council?
    Having four months in my new role at the City of Mount Gambier and aside from the obvious differences in profile (size, access to funding, services, training, talent pool, economic and community drivers) I’ve observed a heightened sense of community one would expect to see in rural and regional areas/councils, resilience and tenacity, the community looking to the council for leadership particularly to drive / lead / facilitate economic development.

    What is the thing you like most about working as a General Manager in local government?
    Leading strategic direction and alignment, driving innovation and continuous improvement, developing people and organisational capability and capacity, transparency and drawing upon better practice governance thereby optimising customer and stakeholder engagement, delivering on endorsed vision, strategies, public value and service outcomes.


  • 20 Jul 2017 6:51 PM | Anonymous

    This month we speak with Russell Peate, CEO of Mid-Murray Council.

    Russell speaks about his long career in local government, the exciting initiatives underway at Mid-Murray and the innovative approach that can be found in many regional councils.

    Hi Russell, thanks for speaking with us.

    What’s your current role?
    My current role is Chief Executive Officer of Mid Murray Council. The council covers a large geographic area of around 6,500km2 from near Murray Bridge to the Riverland and across to the Barossa.

    We have the second largest road length of 68 Councils in the State (3,500km of roads; 3,200km of which are unsealed), 220km of the Murray River, 50 shack areas on the river, 28 boat ramps, 28 Community Wastewater Management Schemes and 16 small towns. Our population is only 8,500.

    We are about an hour to an hour and a half drive from Adelaide; with the largest town being Mannum on the Murray River.

    Where were you before? What is your work background/career path so far?
    Before Mid Murray Council, I was the Chief Executive Officer of the District Council of Grant and prior to that the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Rockhampton City Council (a large Provincial City Council of 60,000 people and at the time 630 employees), Senior Clerk at Emerald Shire Council and Rates Clerk and Trainee Local Government Clerk at Logan City Council in Queensland.

    I have completed a Bachelor of Business from the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, further study at Central Queensland University (years ago to become a certificated Local Government Clerk), Master of Business from Charles Sturt University, Australian Institute of Company Directors, Justice of the Peace (Qualified), Professional Leadership Program, was the first Local Government Exchange Manager to South Africa and have been on the Board of LGMA, SA /LG Professionals, SA.

    What attracted you to local government, and your current role?
    No other business or organisation in my view has as much contact, input or influence into the community and people’s lives.

    Councils have the ability to change the quality of life for communities and people. This can range from health and medical services, mobile phone and internet services, aged care, encouraging businesses to establish, partnerships with schools and other organisations through to the normal services of councils. My current role is so diverse in working with small communities in dealing with all of these services and projects as well as ensuring the Council operates efficiently.

    What motivates you? What are you most passionate about in local government?
    The ability to work with the community and partner with them to ensure better services, facilities, expansion of/or new businesses, provision of projects that the community have identified and working with the Council team to help make this happen.

    I am most passionate about working and partnering with the community and businesses to help make services and projects happen. For example, a small town in the Mid Murray Council had only 11 school enrolments. By working with a large new business that established, the school now has 22 school enrolments.

    Businesses in the town are flourishing, the Country Fire Service has more volunteers and the community is thriving.

    How have you shaped your Council’s involvement in economic development and what does the future hold?
    I have helped shape the Council’s involvement in economic development by simply working with and partnering with businesses in helping them to expand or establish.

    Often councils are seen as a barrier or a hurdle in planning and building requirements for the expansion or establishment of a business. If we can assist and facilitate the approvals; including working with State Agencies (EPA, DEWNR, DPTI, Native Vegetation and others) then the Council, community and business can benefit and prosper.

    The Mid Murray Council presently has $2.5 Billion in development, either approved, underway or development applications lodged.

    What is the most exciting initiative that your Council is currently involved in?
    The most exciting initiatives have involved working and partnering with the establishment of Australia’s largest Commercial Free Range Chicken Farm, working with the establishment of a $1 Billion Solar and Battery Farm, a $550 Million Wind Farm and other large developments.

    All of these have significantly benefitted or have the potential to benefit communities and businesses throughout the region. Another exciting initiative involves partnering with a health business to establish a full time general practitioner for a town that has very limited medical services.

    We can only imagine what it’s like to have to drive 50km to visit a GP; let alone specialist services.

    You’ve been participating in the Rural Management Challenge now for a number of years – and Mid Murray won in 2015. What do you see as the main benefits to individuals, council and your community from participation?
    I personally fully support the Rural Management Challenge as a practical and valued training and management exercise for our Council team.

    With the busyness of work, sometimes it’s difficult to have a cross functional team work together and the Rural Management Challenge provides this. It is an excellent example of a team working and learning together which then brings back benefits to Council and their own roles.

    I have actually participated in the Rural Management Challenge myself, so am aware of the rewards and benefits.

    Rural Councils often need to look at innovative solutions due to cost pressures and lower staff numbers. What’s an example of an innovation or innovative thinking that you’ve seen during your time at Mid Murray?
    Some of the innovative solutions and thinking has been that jobs are multifaceted. That is, team members need to be innovative and be able to undertake a range of roles unlike larger councils.

    In addition, some of the more innovative thinking and solutions have involved regional procurement groups, video conferencing between our three council offices, resource sharing with adjoining councils and particularly community partnerships for events and projects, where progress associations/community organisations run a variety of events for the benefit of their towns and communities.

    Do your staff members attend any other LG Professionals, SA events or programs? What has been your experience of these programs from a CEO perspective?
    Team members attend a range of LG Professionals, SA events and programs ranging from one day seminars to the Rural Management Challenge, Emerging Leaders Program, Professional Leadership Program, Annual Conference and others.

    I have attended and undertaken the Professional Leadership Program run by LG Professionals, SA in association with Executive Education at the University of Adelaide, Rural Management Challenge, Annual Conference and one day seminars. I have found the programs; particularly the Professional Leadership Program to be excellent and practical and very beneficial to the work environment.

    What are the best things about the Mid Murray area – what makes it unique?
    The Mid Murray Council is unique in that it covers part of the Murraylands Region, Riverland Region and a small section of the Barossa. It is only one to one and a half hours drive from Adelaide and incorporates 220km of the Murray River, the Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges and plenty of tourist attractions.

    If you like water sports, fishing, camping, motorbike riding and a range of other activities that are close to Adelaide; then Mid Murray Council is the area for you. The Murray Princess (the largest paddle wheeler in the south hemisphere – three stories high) is based in Mannum and there are a number of other houseboat (unforgettable houseboats) and commercial boat tours.

    The Council owns and operates the PS Marion and PW Mayflower and runs their own cruises and trips all by volunteers. The PS Canally at Morgan is also being restored by volunteers.

    Finally, how do you spend your leisure time outside of local government?
    I try to have a reasonable work life balance.

    However, living just outside Mannum means that you are part of the community, which has its ups and downs. You have the ability to contribute to the community (I volunteer for the Breakfast Club for the Mannum Community College and a community organisation barbeque), have been on the local football club committee and have previously in other councils been on the high School governing council, hospital board, President of Make a Wish Foundation, the local swim club and other community organisations.

    My leisure time is varied; although I don’t get a great deal of time to undertake these – travel (both within Australia and overseas), music (relearning the guitar), cooking (little time to do this), gym five days a week, running, swimming, tennis (when I can), music, theatre and watching sport (soccer, AFL, tennis).

  • 22 Jun 2017 10:17 AM | Anonymous

    This month we speak with Emma Watkins, Senior Community Ranger - Community Safety, City of Onkaparinga.  

    Emma speaks about what motivates her to achieve in local government, her recent experience in the Emerging Leaders Program and her thoughts on the recent national Congress.

    Hi Emma, thanks for speaking with us.

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

    My current role is Senior Community Ranger - Community Safety at the City of Onkaparinga. I’m based at the Noarlunga office and am responsible for managing any escalated issues, creating and managing strategies, projects and procedures and ensuring our team can effectively meet the needs and expectations of our community.

    Our team consists of 11 Community Rangers, two Seniors, a TL and Manager. Our Community Rangers number can increase to 17 throughout summer which is our peak season.

    We’re responsible for the effective administration of approximately 13 Acts with around 70 per cent of our work focused on dog management.

    Day-to-day my troops are out on the road investigating reports, proactively attending to identified breaches and engaging with the community.

    Our team handles approximately 2500 reports each year, spends 1000 hours proactively patrolling our foreshore throughout summer and manages 35,000 registered and 10,000 unregistered dogs, just to name a few!

    From time to time I get to go out on the road to assist with some of the more complex matters which I enjoy immensely.

    What attracted you to local government, and your current role?

    I started my career in local government in a casual beach patrol position for some spare cash while I was studying Paramedic Science full time at Flinders University. I ended up going part time at Uni and part time in local government. In the four years it took to finish my degree I’d completely fallen in love with local government and the Community Safety section at Onkaparinga.

    I intended to leave local government to work with SA Ambulance but the pull of local government and leadership was too strong. I was promoted to the position of Senior Community Ranger in December 2015 and I’ve had the opportunity to develop what was a relatively new role at the time into an effective, dynamic and fun career.

    What motivates you? What are you most passionate about in local government?

    I am a highly motivated person in most areas of my life. You could say I’m a bit of a keen bean. I jump out of bed each day because I love the creativity involved in trying to solve problems and get a real kick out of getting a project going and seeing a positive effect.

    I am attracted to the closeness of local government to its communities. It’s easy to see the direct effects of our actions when you are at the coalface. Customers can come to the front counter to discuss any issue which isn’t the case with other tiers of government.

    My vision for our team and for me is to create a safe environment in which community members can be empowered to take action to resolve issues. I strongly believe that local government does not have to do everything all the time. We should be providing community members with all the necessary information to increase their confidence and enable them to connect with neighbours to find a mutually agreeable and lawful solution to a problem. This reduces the enforcement action required by us.

    We do so much amazing work in this space at the City of Onkaparinga and I’m constantly motivated by the great energy of our team.

    Why did you decide to participate in the Emerging Leaders Program?

    At the City of Onkaparinga we have a fairly competitive application process for participation in the ELP. I applied last year after talking to previous participants about the program and listening to their stories.

    When I applied for the program I had been in a formal leadership role for only a few months and thought it sounded like a fantastic way to obtain some of that foundation leadership knowledge required to effectively lead a successful and motivated team.

    I chose to apply for the ELP over other leadership courses because it is so heavily set in the local government environment and I truly believe you can’t understand the beast which is local government leadership unless you are in it.

    What were your most important learnings/experiences from that program?

    There were two main learnings for me in the ELP.

    Firstly I found out, specifically and scientifically, what my weaknesses are and from that I have been able to refine my processes to manage them and find good allies in my team to work around those weaknesses. This has been huge for me in increasing my efficiency and professionalism.

    Secondly, the program has given me an enormous catalogue of experiences working with people with very different work styles and personalities and from this, as I encounter new people in my day-to-day work, I’m better able to understand the communication and leadership approach that may be most effective for us both.

    Much of the focus of the ELP is on leadership. What did you learn about leadership that you can share with our readers?

    I learnt that leadership is not about controlling others, rather it’s about finding out what motivates people and influencing in a way which achieves goals and keeps people satisfied at work. Once people have a clear understanding of what’s required of them and are feeling motivated at work, good things will happen.

    How has the ELP helped you in your career?

    The ELP afforded me many opportunities to connect with leaders at the City of Onkaparinga and other organisations and has exploded my network across local government. Your network is one of the most important assets you carry with you as a leader.

    Have you/do you attend any other LG Professionals, SA events or programs? What has been your experience of them?

    Yes, I’m currently studying the Professional Leadership Program with around one month to go. The PLP is far more technical which I am finding to be a more comfortable study structure than the ELP. You learn a concept, practice the concept, receive a mark on your competency and then move on. Although, I do miss the emotional stretch of the ELP and the creativity and networking opportunities.

    You won a scholarship to attend the National Congress in Hobart, how did that come about?

    Yes, I’ve recently returned from the Local Government Professionals, Australia National Congress and Business Expo in Hobart.

    I was fortunate to win the Raymond West Scholarship to attend as an emerging leader. I made an application through LG Professionals, SA and won. I couldn’t believe it! The City of Onkaparinga supported me to attend the Congress which I am incredibly grateful for.

    Our Learning and Development team went above and beyond to ensure I got the most out of the experience and I was fortunate to attend with my Director, Ali Hancock and CEO, Mark Dowd which was a great opportunity for me to connect and share ideas with our senior leaders.

    What did you think of the Congress? What were the highlights for you? Can you tell us about 2-3 things you took away from that experience that will assist you back in the council?

    I thoroughly enjoyed the Congress. It was my first time attending a Congress like this.

    Content wise, highlights for me were keynote speakers Holly Ransom and Lt David Morrison. My CEO, Mark Dowd has spoken about Lt Morrison’s ‘leading from the front’ presentation during our recent town hall (all staff meeting), bringing the stories of Lt Morrison’s time as Chief of Army working with Elizabeth Broderick (Sex Discrimination Commissioner at the time). Part of the message was finding the big problem and standing next to it. This message has been ringing around my head, and Mark’s head, since the Congress. It’s about courage, and I feel I am becoming a courageous leader in my workplace.

    Holly Ransom does speaking presentations for organisations on strategy, insight and capability and I have recommended her as a fantastic town hall presenter for the City of Onkaparinga. She ignited conversation and excitement throughout all levels of delegates, injecting energy into the Congress.

    I have returned to work newly energized and motivated. I found the networking and presentations interesting and valuable to my organisation and to me. I have a fresh outlook on how I, as a young leader, am able to influence and impact my daily interactions. This will be immediately beneficial to my team and organisation. I will share my learnings wherever and with whomever I can and look forward to continuing to develop as a leader in local government.

    Finally, how do you spend your leisure time outside of local government?

    I am a fairly active person, I love playing social netball, hiking, running, cycling and walking my handsome dog Archibald. I do all of this activity to counter my great passion for food and wine. I often travel to seek new food and wine experiences around SA and the world.

     

     

  • 29 May 2017 9:42 AM | Anonymous

    Networking is an essential part of leadership.  In this series we chat to leaders in our industry about how, and why, they network with others.
    In this article we speak to John Devine, General Manager City Development, City of Unley.

    Hi John. What’s your opinion of networking in local government?

    In my view all sectors of the economy/ society network. It’s a part of doing business. It’s hard to survive in business if you don’t build & use your network, either as customers, suppliers, or business partners.

    The best in local government do it as well as anybody, but many don’t use it well.

    Local government tends to take a more collegial or family approach to its networking rather than using it as a deliberate strategy to doing business. Many people have networks mostly focussed on similar disciplines and are more social in nature when they meet at conferences or forums rather than improving business outcomes. 

    A good network can ensure that you get improved accessibility within other organisations to help with obtaining information, or getting decisions made.

    How has networking been of benefit to you in your career and/or in your job role?

    I believe that two or more heads are better than one, when thinking about solutions or how to do things. I don’t pretend to have all the answers but probably know someone who might be able to shed a light on the topic.

    It’s important to learn from others experiences, rather than relearn something others could have told you about. Networks are an excellent way of learning from others.

    For example in Procurement – it’s important to find out “who knows who” in the market rather than rely on information from contractors and consultants.  This also extends to potential staff recruitment.

    What approaches, techniques and ideas for effective networking can you share? For example, the national congress has just been held in Hobart. What was your approach for networking at the congress?

    My style at conferences is diverse. I tend to talk to a number of the exhibitors, to learn more about their product and service and gauge the type of company they are. I’m more interested in relationships than transactional style so I try and get them off their sales pitch and learn about their clients who can be a testimony to them.

    Interstate leaders are important to meet as they in many cases have similar issues and opportunities to ourselves and may have a new approach, or know someone who has done it well, or know someone who can help.  Often they can be at a different stage of this issue/ opportunity, or we might be ahead of them and can share our experiences.

    In addition – it’s often very useful to be on the program as a speaker at a conference, because after the session it’s common to be approached by a different range of people that you may otherwise have missed.

    For those just dipping a toe in the water of networking – how would you advise to get started?

    Associations such as LG Professionals – and their networks - are excellent vehicles for building your network.  Join your local state body and get involved. 

    Recognise the value of networking – and approach it strategically.  Network for information – or for relationships that can lead to better outcome – or even your next job.

    Don’t fear networking – and remember that while social networking is important  – strategic  business networking will provide even better results.


  • 27 May 2017 11:57 AM | Anonymous

    Networking is an essential part of leadership.  In this series we chat to leaders in our industry about how, and why, they network with others.

    In this article we speak to Victoria MacKirdy, General Manager Organisation & Culture, Alexandrina Council.

    Victoria, in your opinion, what are the benefits of networking in local government?
    There are so many areas in local government  where we can learn from each other and share ideas.  We all have friends and colleagues that we connect with regularly, but networking through Local Government Professionals I get to meet such a diverse range of people, from right across our State and also Australia. 

    How has networking been of benefit to you in your career and/or in your job role?
    There is no doubt networking has assisted me in my career, not only with great ideas, opportunities to collaborate but also with  career opportunities I would not have had from within the one organisation.

    How do you do it?  What approaches, techniques and ideas for effective networking can you share?
    There are no real secrets, you just need to be open, friendly and be prepared to share and support others, networking is a two way thing.  People want to know a bit about you personally and professionally.  It's also important if you say you will share an idea or project brief that you follow through.  Remembering people and what they do and where they work is important, a genuine interest to want to learn and share. 

    You've recently attended the national congress - what's your approach for networking at these types of events?
    The national congress is great because I get to meet people from all over Australia and from various parts of the world.  It sometimes makes you realise the challenges we face in our own local government area are either the same as others or not very big at all.  It's a great chance to chat to sponsors in a relaxing casual environment, test some ideas you may have and research projects and issues.  Having an external bouncing board for ideas with people who understand your sector is great.

    Do you think networking in local government is more effective and valuable than networking in other industries because of the essentially non-competitive nature of local government?  if so, please elaborate!
    Definitely, we all have the same focus of wanting to deliver great service to our communities.  The only competition would be for great staff.... 

    But speaking of other industries - What's the value of networking beyond your own industry?
    We all need to look outside of our sectors for ideas, feedback and sometimes inspiration.  We can get a bit bogged down in the regulations of our sector, so to look at different industries gives you the opportunity to challenge what we do and to think outside the box.  Networking usually provides you with the opportunity to explain to people what you do and why.... doing this sometimes makes you realise there could be a better way.

    What's the value of networking with other levels of government?
    We don't do this enough I think... the average person thinks government is just government.... they don't realise the layers, having good contacts in different levels can help so much with reducing duplication, better collaboration and great partnerships with services.  It's also great with sourcing funding for your local community.

    How do you do it?
    I attend a variety of programs and networks - this is where you get to meet different people and sectors you would not normally get to meet. I volunteer my time to speak or facilitate sessions where I can.  As I said before it's a two way thing, the more you put in the more you get out of it.

    Does your national board role enable networking more nationally?
    Absolutely - across local government and federal government and other sectors.

    What benefits does this bring?
    I have made some great friends/colleagues and now have contacts in councils right across Australia.  It helps me no end to understand the challenges and opportunities being faced by different States, having those contacts is great for sharing ideas and projects.  I also enjoy connecting people I meet who have similar challenges and can help each other.... if I can make those contacts/connections, it's extremely rewarding.

  • 27 May 2017 10:05 AM | Anonymous

    This month we speak with Terra Lea Ranson, Manager of Community Capacity at the City of Onkaparinga.

    Terra Lea speaks about her career so far - and what's in store for the future.

    She also speaks about her role as Chair of the Community Manager's Network and how the network can assist councils to navigate the changes on the horizon for community services.

    Hi Terra Lea - thanks for speaking with us.

    What’s your current role, and what does it involve?
    My current role is Manager of Community Capacity at the City of Onkaparinga. It involves developing strategic direction that enables the City of Onkaparinga as an organisation to build the capacity of our residents to create strong vibrant communities.  I am responsible for leading the coordination and implementation of recreation, youth, arts, disability, active ageing and community development programs and centres in accordance with relevant Council policies, plans and strategies.

    Where were you before? What is your work background/career path so far?
    I began my career as a youth worker in the not for profit sector. My interest was in developing opportunities for young people to grow, develop and thrive. 
    My desire to create opportunities led me into management and business development roles with a focus on young people, their families and communities.

    What attracted you to local government, and your current role?
    I was attracted to local government because I wanted to work with local communities around leadership development, engagement and volunteering. My first role (10 years ago) at the City of Onkaparinga was as a senior project officer developing programs, frameworks and guidelines that build the capacity of local residents to have a voice, lead and participate.

    What motivates you? What do you find most interesting or exciting about working in local government?
    I am excited about fostering community connections, initiating collaborative approaches and supporting community led innovation that builds the capacity of our communities to create places and spaces to connect, learn and recreate.

    You’re the Chair of the Community Managers Network.  There are huge changes in community services in councils, especially with the new health reform agenda, including consumer directed care. How does the network assist participating councils manage these massive changes?  What’s your vision for the network for the coming year?
    The Community Managers Network shares information, monitors trends and identifies opportunities to resource the sector and advocate for change. 
    To that end we:

    • meet regularly to share information.
    • run forums, conferences and events that inform the community services/community development sector. For example we held a ’standing room only’ workshop in February about the impact of NDIS on Local Government.
    • develop learning materials that build that capacity of the sector. For example we have developed an induction program for workers new to community development in Local Government which we offer three to four times a year (depending on need).
    • won funds from the LGA Research and Development Scheme to fund the Valuing Social Outcomes (VSO) research project which aims to help councils make evidence-based decisions regarding investment into social programs and services.
    • work with the LGA to understand how best to respond to the health reform agenda.

    My vision for the coming year is that as a network we provide opportunities for local government community development/community services to grow develop and thrive in a changing environment, advocating for our communities and our sector.

    As well as networking between councils - how does the Community Managers Network facilitate networking with other levels of government and private organisations?  Can you elaborate on this?
    We are active in seeking to work with state, federal government and private organisations. We engage and advocate when we  are concerned that changes or lack of response to emerging issues may have a negative impact on the communities we serve.

    For example at our NDIS forum we invited representatives from all three layers of government, private consultants and not for profits engaged in the disability sector. We have been active in understanding and advocating for positive improvements in the aged care and health sectors..

    In your role at Onkaparinga, Manager of Community Capacity; in 2 years' time, what do you think you will look back on with a sense of achievement?
    We are reviewing the provision of our community facilities and services and programs. I want to look back and see that the changes we have made have improved the life of our citizens, particularly those that are vulnerable, have enabled them to have a voice, influencing the decisions that are important to them and that we contributed to the development of their capacity to work with us to deliver on our goal of strong vibrant communities.

    How do you spend your leisure time outside of local government?
    I enjoy spending time with my family, particularly my grandsons who remind me how delightful life is.  I live in the City of Onkaparinga and enjoy our beaches, walking trails, local food and the McLaren Vale wine region.
    I like to travel and experience different lifestyles and cultures.





  • 19 Apr 2017 12:56 PM | Anonymous

    This month we speak with Nat Traeger, Director Community and Corporate, Coorong District Council. 

    Nat talks about what still motivates her after 30 years at the council and also highlights Coorong's recent recognition though the LG Professionals awards - and what those awards mean to the council staff and the community.

    Hi Nat - thanks for speaking with us.

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

    Director Community & Corporate, portfolio includes community development, arts & culture, community health & well-being, libraries, youth, customer service, information management, finance, IT, media & communications, organisational development & governance.

     

    Where were you before? (i.e. what is your work background/career path so far)?

    May 2017 will see me celebrate a 30 year career with the Coorong Council, undertaking many of the operational roles contained in my portfolio.

     

    What attracted you to local government, and your current role?

    My grandfather was an elected member and the opportunity to obtain a job in the local community was my initial motivation for applying for a role with Council.

     

    What motivates you? What are you most passionate about in local government?

    Without doubt community connectivity; I simply love living in and working for the Coorong Council.  I am all about innovation, community collaboration, working in teams, vibrant social media engagement and ensuring my sense of humour is relayed to the people I work with and when appropriate, by the way we communicate.  In recent times I have been doing a lot of work in raising awareness of suicide prevention and putting measures in place to support a community who was rocked by the loss of six lives in a short space of time.

     

    Coorong District Council was certainly ‘punching above its weight’ at the LG Professionals, SA Excellence Awards – taking home two excellence awards.  You received the first place trophy for Innovative Management Initiatives with your fantastic Coorong District Council Accidental Art Gallery project. Can you tell us about this project and why you think the team was so successful in showing innovation?

    This project was essentially using an existing asset to create a previously non existent and new strategic direction for Council without having to spend significant money on a bricks and mortar solution.  The reason it was accidental was that we didn’t know our community was longing for an outlet to exhibit their art until I was given the responsibility of addressing the bare walls of our new civic centre and put a call out through social media.  The response was unexpected and overwhelming!

    We used internal resources to install tracking, made minor modifications to enable public access to what was to become our gallery area and established a team of keen (but inexperienced) staff to host our first exhibition.  Such was the success, and realising the opportunities arts could provide our predominantly agricultural region, subsequent exhibitions were held, local arts sales boomed and extraordinary positive feedback flooded in from the community.

    This transformation of civic space to gallery space revealed that arts and culture was important to the community and to determine just how far-reaching this was, an arts & culture audit was undertaken.  The report was integral to making a successful funding submission to Country Arts SA and we now have a full-time professional resource to support the gallery and implement new art projects.  Within months the arts lead regional renewal project known as ‘Creating Coonalpyn’ emerged; a suite of community arts projects in a struggling town which includes a flagship project, the silo mural which is now SA’s largest art canvas and turned the town into an iconic tourist destination over night.

     

    You were also involved in the team that won the Excellence in Sustainable Infrastructure and Asset Management award, with the Coorong District Council Unsealed Roads Project.  Please tell us a bit more about that project, and how the team worked so well together.

    Council has 1,462kms of unsealed road, in fact our entire road network is the same as driving to Sydney and back – so that is a lot of roads to maintain! Through education and upskilling, a change in workplace culture, improved methodology road construction teams have the confidence and knowledge to complete the road program. 

    The change has created a more consistent and longer wearing road surface, and reduced unsealed road maintenance from $45k to $30k per kilometre.  The team worked well together as they were on the same page about understanding current best practice and were open and collaborative in their discussions within the team, with the CEO and other non Infrastructure & Assets sections, such as human resources and finance.

     

     What do you think these awards mean to the Council, your staff and the community?

    One of our core strategic values is ‘enjoying work’ and within that core value is ‘joining others in appropriately celebrating individual, team and organisational success’. We like to celebrate in style, through writing stories of our success to share with the media and wider to community.  We also have internal reward and recognition policies in place to celebrate the achievements of teams and individuals.  We know the community value our success as they share this through feedback on our social media platforms. 

    An example is this response to media we circulated after these award wins “this is so exciting for the Coorong District Council team……..this is what effort, community collaboration, communication, energy and excitement looks like.  You have successfully delivered on projects that benefit the region, not just your council area.   Congratulations, you have dispensed with over worked words that offer much and deliver nothing; you are communicating through vibrant social media postings punctuated by humour whilst delivering facts and news.”

     

    Even with all the success, there must be some things that you wish you could improve.  What is the key challenge facing your department in the next 12 months – and how do you think you will address it?

    We have just undergone an organisational re-structure and I have new areas of organisational development and governance to sink my teeth into.  We have a bit of work to do so I am looking forward to working with some new team members in my department and making some headway into the backlog we have specifically in HR, WHS and our governance framework.

     The other exciting key challenge is to maximise the potential with the ‘Creating Coonalpyn’ project as we move towards a “Marketing Coonalpyn” phase.  We are looking at merchandising agreements, artist retreats and an annual RV Fest event and much, much more.

     I will address these challenges and others in my usual way which is through collaboration, communication, innovation and teamwork!


     What's next for you?  Where do you want to be (career wise) in 5 years?

    Despite my 30 years’ experience with Council, I simply have had no time to achieve one single qualification.  Now that my daughters are slightly more self-sufficient, I will be looking to undertake some professional development, most likely in the area I am most passionate about which is community development management.

     

    Finally, how do you spend your leisure time outside of local government?

    I love coaching junior sports teams, in both basketball and netball.  If I am not coaching I am invariably managing a team, so being courtside is something I really enjoy.  My daughters both play a wide variety of sport so I enjoy travelling with them and watching them play.  We live by the mighty Murray so I love the outdoors in terms of kayaking, fishing and boating.  As a family we also enjoy geocaching which is a pastime I can’t recommend highly enough if you like adventure, exploring and seeing places off the beaten track!

     

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