• 30 Aug 2019 10:27 AM | Deleted user

    This month we spoke to Johanna Williams about her role as General Manager, Rundle Mall Management Authority, and what inspired her to take part in our Executive Leaders Program this year.

    You work for a council subsidiary – can you tell us what challenges are unique to a subsidiary vs working in a council?

    As custodian of the Rundle Mall Precinct, RMMA’s role is to deliver economic benefits for our traders, our property owners and for those who work in and visit the Mall. That means we’re delivering a specific part of the City of Adelaide’s agenda under the governance of a Board comprising retail, property and marketing professionals as well as Elected Members.

    We work semi-autonomously, developing our own strategy and initiatives for the Precinct, drawing on the expertise and information within Council and with accountability to the Elected Members.

    An added overlay is the wider stakeholders we serve – the people of South Australia – who see Rundle Mall as the heart of Adelaide and are invested in what happens here.

    We look forward to having you participate in our Executive Leaders Program this year. What inspired you to take time out of your busy schedule and commit to the program?

    Given Rundle Mall needs to lead the way in South Australia, I’m striving to build my leadership capabilities so I can keep fostering the innovation culture that’s essential for RMMA‘s ongoing success. I also need to lead a talented team through a complex environment of constant change and diverse stakeholders so I’m looking forward to gaining a deeper appreciation of my leadership style and how to lead with authenticity. Meeting other senior leaders to share experiences and learn from one another will also be invaluable.

    What is the most complex challenge you are facing in your role at the moment?

    Future proofing Rundle Mall against the rapidly changing retail landscape while preserving the memories every South Australian has of the Mall. In some way Rundle Mall features in most people’s life milestones, so how do we retain that when we’re considering what the Mall should be in 10 or 20 years from now? It’s a challenge to balance that big picture strategy against the short-term delivery of campaigns, activations and leasing that draw visitors in and supports our traders and property owners.

    Finally, what keeps you busy outside of work?

    When I’m at home I like to unwind in the garden. I’ve just finished creating my first vegetable patch so I’m looking forward to planting seedlings for summer. I also enjoy travelling and exploring new destinations and heading to the footy – it’s just a shame 2019 hasn’t ended so well for the Crows, Port Power or for my Swans!

  • 31 Jul 2019 11:28 AM | Deleted user

    This month we spoke with Deb Larwood, CEO of The District Council of Kimba, about her role, the challenges she sees in the region's future and how Council is preparing itself to overcome them.

    What is your current role and what does it involve?

    I am currently employed as the Chief Executive Officer of The District Council of Kimba and have been in that role for nearly three years. This involves overseeing the strategic operations of Council including asset management, finance, strategic planning, governance and human resources, as well as working closely with the elected body of Council.

    What is your favourite thing about your role?

    I really enjoy the opportunity to work closely with the community and the elected members to help achieve their goals for the Kimba District. Local Government is a unique organisation and prior to working within the sector I didn’t realise how extensive and varied a role a Council plays. I like being actively involved in the community and enjoy the chance it gives me to play my part in helping the community prosper and reach its full potential. This is also made more appealing through working within the community in which I live, whose residents are resilient innovators embracing emerging economic opportunities to position the town for a sustainable and vibrant future.

    What is your career background to date?

    I performed in the role of Manager Corporate Services at the District Council of Kimba for a period of ten years before becoming the CEO. Prior to my involvement in Local Government I worked in the banking sector as well as being what I term a professional volunteer with an involvement in a vast number of community organisations.

    You have been a member of LG Professionals, SA for over 10 years! How does this membership benefit both you and your council?

    For me probably the most significant benefit I have received is the opportunity to network with other CEO’s and staff members of Council, as well as using LG Professionals, SA training and conference forums to enhance my capabilities as a CEO. Over the course of my 12 year career in Local Government I have been fortunate to attend around 8-9  of the LG Professionals Australia National Conferences, as well as numerous state conferences, CEO Forums along with completing the Professional Leaders Program, a three-day intensive leadership session and  a  number of other training initiatives.

    I believe that professional development is an essential component of both the CEO role and the leadership role and see the training that not only I have undertaken, but also other Council staff and the elected body as an investment in the organisation. LG Professionals, SA allows this training and exposure to other information gathering forums to be readily accessible. It is centred on Local Government and showcases the expertise they have in this area, as well as providing an opportunity to network with other individuals involved in the sector.

    To ensure the benefits of LG Professionals, SA is available across the organisation the District Council of Kimba currently provides membership to the Senior Management team. In addition, in November 2018 Council sent the applicable administration staff to the LG Professionals, SA Women's Network Conference, not only as an acknowledgement of their commitment to Council throughout the year, but as an opportunity to expand their local government knowledge and develop relationships with other Council personnel. The feedback from this conference by staff was extraordinarily complimentary and the benefits gained have far exceeded the cost to Council. It is my intent to make this event an annual sojourn for administration staff when possible.

    You are registered to undertake the Executive Leaders Program, which will commence in August. What are you most looking forward to as part of this program?

    At the recent NGA Congress, David Pich from the Institute of Managers and Leaders ran a session on ‘the six layers of intentional leadership’ and categorised the term ‘the accidental leader’. I identified with his theories and recognised the need to be well versed in the art of leadership. I am constantly looking at ways of improving management leadership capabilities and am looking forward to the insight the program will provide me in this area. I am keen to hear the concepts around traversing changing environments and enhancing our adaptive thinking capabilities.

    Local Government is constantly evolving, and I think that as CEO’s we need all the help we can get to navigate through these times. In addition, the networking that is always a component of these programs provides us with the ability to see what other Councils’ are doing in the Local Government Sector. 

    In these times of constant change, there is a huge focus on planning for the future. What initiatives are District Council of Kimba implementing to enable you to be future ready?

    When it comes to summing up Kimba Council’s attitude to planning for the future, the best three words to describe Council’s approach would be innovation, adaptation and community.

    Kimba is lucky to have a progressive Council who are open to looking beyond the traditional means of future proofing both the Council and the community. A key focus and priority for Council is playing a proactive role in the recruitment of a doctor to provide GP Services to our town and hospital. Whilst it is not a traditional role of local government bodies, Council has chosen to campaign strongly with other tiers of government and have allocated significant funds to secure this service.

    Council is also in the throes of completing a Community and Economic Development Strategy. Over the past two years we have secured in excess of two million dollars in grant funding which has allowed us to complete such projects from playgrounds, independent and affordable aged accommodation to water catchment initiatives. Tourism is also a focus and Council has set up a self-contained camping area to increase tourism visitation to our town.

    In the 2019-20 budget, funds have been included to develop plans for a potential expansion to the Council-owned health centre. We are also investigating power line undergrounding and upgrades to the main street. All of these initiatives are part of the long-term planning of the Council and will be included as part of Council’s Strategic Plan review which is underway.

    From the perspective of the District Council of Kimba it is all about Council positioning itself to be able to maximise all the opportunities that present into the future.

    What do you see as the biggest challenge for your council, and regional councils more generally?

    The biggest challenge I see for the District Council of Kimba, and many other regional Councils, is the current declining population of the district and the challenges this creates in the community through the constant need to lobby for the continuation of infrastructure development and service delivery. Subsequently, this flows into a decline in people using facilities which then presents Council with a difficult decision as to what is the best use of Council resources and where these limited resources should be allocated. Do we prioritise the playground, or do we allocate these funds to assets better utilised within the community? There is a perception within communities, including Kimba, that Council’s should keep operating these assets long-term even when the numbers do not support the decision. ‘Councils need to do more with less’ is a common mantra that we hear and this is becoming more prevalent as time goes on. This issue is also exacerbated with the constant cost-shifting we see from other levels of government and along with the effects of declining population Council’s long-term sustainability and the capacity to maintain adequate level of services to the community is at risk into the future.

    Finally – what do you enjoy outside of work?  How do you spend your leisure time?

    I am currently studying a Bachelor of Government and Public Management, which takes up a considerable portion of my spare time. With the little bit that’s left over I enjoy reading, travelling, catching up with family and friends on a regular basis and watching a good movie. Shopping is also a favourite past time of mine and one I’m very good at.

  • 28 May 2019 12:31 PM | Deleted user

    What's your current role, and what does it involve?
    I’ve been the Chief Executive Officer at Rural City of Murray Bridge since June 2015, where I’m responsible for strategic planning, stakeholder management and communications, finance and asset management, human resources, governance and major projects. I’m also responsible to the Council to build a proactive organisational culture to deliver a “Proud, Safe and Progressive Murray Bridge”.

    What‘s your career background to date that has led to your current position?

    • Financial Management Professional since 1997 at the City of Port Phillip and the City of Yarra
    • General Manager responsible for Corporate Services at Adelaide City Council 2006-2013
    • General Manager Corporate Services at Rural City of Murray Bridge in 2013

    What do you enjoy most about working in local government?
    I’m passionate about implementing the strategies we have developed together, delivering the Vision, and making a difference for our Community.

    What benefits do you and your council get out of your membership with LG Professionals, SA?
    We value the opportunities to progress our professional networks and interact with local government peers across the state.

    We’re thrilled to have you as part of the program for our 2019 Economic Development Conference. How have you shaped your Council’s involvement in economic development and what does the future hold for Rural City of Murray Bridge?
    One of my key priorities upon commencing in the CEO role with the Rural City of Murray Bridge was to develop an Economic Development Strategy, which has guided our involvement in economic development activities over the past 4 years.

    The Strategy articulates our long-term objectives in Economic Development out to 2030

    What is the most exciting initiative that your Council is currently involved in? Any big projects on the horizon?
    Council has committed to a range of major projects to make our entrances more attractive. These projects have included the delivery of a Freeway Town Entrance Statement, roll out of new Town Entrance Signs, the implementation of the Adelaide Road Linear Park Concepts and progression of the Swanport Road Masterplan.

    Finally – what do you enjoy outside of work? How do you spend your leisure time?
    My key commitment to out of work time is a personal training session each week and volunteering in my local community.

  • 27 Feb 2019 5:29 PM | Deleted user

    This month we spoke to Naomi Molloy, Improvement Specialist at the City of Playford to learn more about her, what she does and what she has planned for 2019.

    What is your current role at the City of Playford and what does it involve?

    I’m currently on secondment as an Improvement Specialist. My role involves working with different stakeholders across the business to review, design and improve systems and processes in consideration of expectations, desired outcomes and the customer experience. The role has allowed me to expand my knowledge of the intricacies of Council business and has given me valuable insight into how other departments and teams operate. It’s also allowed me to work with people in a variety of fields and has given me a greater appreciation for the value of our LG staff.

    How long have you worked in local government and what is your career background to date? 

    I’ve been in local government for 5 years now, all at the City of Playford. Prior to that I worked for a state government not-for-profit organisation and have worked for family businesses within the building industry as well. My background is in payroll, finance and human resources, which are surprisingly complementary!

    What do you enjoy most about working in local government? 

    Local government is an incredibly meaningful industry to be working in. We’re very fortunate to be able to deliver such great services to our communities and to see the benefit these services provide.

    Another thing I love about LG is that there is no competition between Councils so we have a unique opportunity to share knowledge, skills, resources and ideas between our networks. The benefits of this can ripple across the sector and I feel as though we’re heading towards a stage of greater collaboration that will see our communities thrive.

    You will be participating in the 2019 Emerging Leaders Program.  What are you most looking forward to about the program?

    I’ve been looking forward to this program for almost a year now! Unfortunately I first became aware of it when the registrations were full for last year so I’m very excited to have made it in to the 2019 course.

    I’m particularly interested in the organisational culture, sustainability, change and leadership modules and since I grew up in country NSW, I’m also keen to explore the insights from a rural perspective. I think it will also be great to go through the course with other local government employees in similar (or different) phases in their career as well.

    I really should have just said I’m looking forward to all of it!

    You are a new member of both the Continuous Improvement Network and Women’s Network - what important role do these networks play in facilitating learning and sharing of ideas across the sector? What prompted you to join these networks?

    I’ve attended events run from both of these networks and can honestly say that I’ve made some great connections and heard fascinating stories at these events. For me, joining the networks was really a no brainer after that!

    The CI network has been a valuable resource, allowing me to see how other Councils are running their CI programs, what improvement opportunities they’re working on and to share my own experiences and findings. The network has people with brilliant minds who have some great initiatives and programs happening in their respective Councils. The network provides the platform to facilitate easier sharing of these which can only lead to greater learnings across the sector.

    The Women’s network is such a powerful network to be a part of. I attended my first Women’s Conference last year and was incredibly inspired by the speakers who presented on the day and managed to catch a few of them for a one-on-one chat. I’m excited to see what the network drives and inspires in the future and for women in the sector to not only break through the glass ceiling, but to shatter it completely.

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

    I like to challenge the norms while keeping sight of the bigger picture. I enjoy coming up with solutions that make it easier for people to perform their job or to provide another service over and above the status quo. I think that local government has started shifting to an innovation phase not only in how we operate externally, but our internal services as well and I’m looking forward to seeing what the next few years have in store!

    One of the other things that motivates me is one of our greatest assets - our people. We have people who have been at Council for longer than I’ve been alive and some who started just last week. Across that spectrum there’s so much knowledge and varied experience on offer and I have a lot of respect for the amount of value our people provide.

    Finally – what do you enjoy outside of work?  How do you spend your leisure time? 

    I have two beautiful children (an adult teenager and a threenager!) and a husband who’s pretty good value too, so I actually quite like spending time with them! I enjoy going to the gym as well and I have come to admit that I love (but sometimes hate) running. I’ve branched more into trail running recently so will often spend early mornings and weekends clocking up some kilometres either on the road or on some of Adelaide’s finest peaks. Since life is all about balance I also like to wind down with friends and a glass of wine or two, or with a good tv show or movie and the comfort of my trackies.  

  • 30 Nov 2018 9:55 AM | Deleted user

    This month we hear from Beth Davidson-Park, member and outgoing President of LG Professionals, SA, as she reflects on 2018.

    It has been a privilege and a pleasure (as well as a great deal of fun) to be President of this great organisation for the past year. I am delighted to continue to work alongside Nigel and the team as a member of the Board, and am confident that LG Professionals, SA will continue to go from strength to strength as the exciting and innovative program offerings of our upcoming Professional Development Program for January to June 2019 gain momentum alongside the long-term success of programs such as the Emerging Leaders Program, the Strategic Management Program (formerly the Professional Leaders Program) and the Management Challenge.

    I am especially proud of the work that Taryn, Kate and the team put in to launch our brand new Executive Leadership Program (XLP). This program is focussed on development opportunities for local government executives seeking to expand their minds to news ways of thinking, delivering and managing, as well as amplifying their leadership impact. With a complex and continuously evolving sector, it is now more than ever essential that local government is prepared for the future. New services, new skills, local and global impacts and the ever-changing digital landscape have fundamentally changed expectations of both the nature and delivery of services.

    During this year I was also very proud to represent our Board at the National Conference as well as welcoming record numbers of people attending our Annual State Conference 'Fast Forward: Navigating the Future’ and the Women’s Conference ‘Reaching your Full Potential’, as well as the Leadership Excellence Awards Gala Dinner and the Community Conference, which was held at SAMHRI—an apt venue for the innovative approaches our community teams across the state bring to our communities.

    Thank you from me to Taryn and the team for their energy, enthusiasm and support as well as congratulations on bringing innovation to all you do—I am in awe of your work!  

  • 30 Oct 2018 11:27 AM | Deleted user

    This month we speak with Timothy Tol, who has just commenced the role of Director of Infrastructure and Environmental Services at Renmark Paringa Council.

    Timothy speaks to us about his passion for working in local government, his career path and his views on professional development.

    You’ve worked in local government for a while now. What is your current role and what does it involve?

    Yes, I have been in Local Government for a while—almost 19 years now. I am currently between roles and will be starting at the Renmark Paringa Council on Monday 29 October as the Director of Infrastructure and Environmental Services. This role involves providing leadership to these two portfolios, and I am looking forward to it.  

    What attracted you to the sector and what keeps you motivated?

    Actually when I was studying at university the last place I thought I’d be working is Local Government. I had that negative stereotypical view of Councils back then. However, it was at the end of 1999 when I landed an opportunity to do some work experience as a planner at Victor Harbor through Donna Ferretti, who was a lecturer at UniSA at the time. This led to working as a General Inspector over that summer that led to acting as their Principal Planner the following year. That was my start in Local Government and I soon realised, and continue to the motivated by, the opportunity that Local Government gives us to do great things with, and on behalf, of our communities—that is my main motivating factor. Now that I am in leadership roles I am also motivated to help others to fulfil their potential and grow. I am always inspired by the high quality of people that work in this sector and it is a privilege to have the opportunity to make a positive impression on other people’s careers. 

    Over the years you have attended a number of our programs, events and conferences. How has being involved with LG Professionals, SA benefited your career?

    One of the greatest things about attending LG Professionals events is the opportunity to meet and get to know our peers from across the sector. The knowledge that is shared and the friendships and contacts that we gain are invaluable. 

    What value do you place in investing in your own professional development, and what role has professional development played in your career so far?

    I place a high value in investing in my own professional development and I believe that we must all continue to learn and extend ourselves whenever possible. One of my most recent achievements was completing my MBA through the Australian Institute of Business in 2013. I thoroughly enjoyed that experience especially as it exposed me to concepts and ideas from many other sectors, not just Local Government. The most important thing about professional development is it provides the opportunity to continually improve and this then provides us a greater chance at success in serving our community and being successful in our respective roles. 

    You recently completed our Executive Leaders Program. How did you find this experience?

    The Executive Leadership Program was without doubt the most valuable, inspiring and thought provoking experience I have had with regard to professional development. It’s really created a bit of a paradigm shift in my head to be honest. 

    It was a privilege to be part of the inaugural program and I can’t thank Taryn and Kate from LG Professionals, SA and the facilitators Andrew Stevens, Diana Renner and Barry Bales enough for putting the program together. I’m also extremely thankful for the group we had—we were an eclectic bunch from many professions, city and country Councils, and we all had such a great time learning together. I have made some wonderful friends from the program and am so happy I had the opportunity to attend. 

    I thoroughly recommend to everyone in executive leadership roles to attend the next Executive Leaders Program. 

    Do you have any advice for local government professionals looking to work at the executive level in the future?

    My advice to others is simple, don’t be afraid to get out of the comfort zone and back yourself. 

    Finally, what keeps you busy outside of your work in local government?

    I have recently found an interest in gardening, in particular growing veggies, herbs, fruit and the like. In reality my partner is more the gardener, I am more the labourer, but I’m really loving growing some of my own food and it’s a great escape to be in the garden after a day at work.

    I also have a love for writing, which I am trying to devote more time to. I own a share in a race horse which keep me poor rather than busy. And I love being busy listening to music—I have an eclectic musical taste, but am a big fan of Aussie Hip Hop and been following it since almost before it was a thing. I still regularly attend gigs and am looking forward to the Elefant Traks 20th Anniversary shows coming up in November and December. 

  • 25 Sep 2018 11:40 PM | Anonymous

    This month we speak with Deb Richardson, Director, Community Development at the City of Port Adelaide Enfield. 

    Deb speaks to us about her role, her advice for aspiring leaders, what motivates her - and why she values "getting involved"

    What's your current role - and what does it involve?

    I’m the Director Community Development at City of Port Adelaide Enfield.  I get to lead a great group of people to work with our community so PAE can be a place people can experience high wellbeing, have opportunity and generally be somewhere people love to be. 

    It’s easy (and at times relevant) to describe our work as functions such as Libraries, Development Services etc and it’s also important to not lose sight of what they all add up to, the things we’re all really here for. 

    Where were you before? (what‘s your career background to date?)

    Where haven't I been?  I've been doing a career tour of Local Government.  Prior to PAE I was at Adelaide Hills Council as Director Assets and Engineering, which was a step out of community development and recreation where I have spent most of my working life. 

    I started out in recreation and aquatic centres and over time moved into Community Development and then into wider leadership roles.

    What do you enjoy most about working in local government?

    Lots of stuff, especially things starting with “p”…people, public good and just quietly I do like a bit of politics.  I get paid to work as part of our community to help make PAE and our world  the best it can be.  

    I’m challenged, I learn,  I make mistakes, I laugh, I meet interesting people, I see the tangible benefit of our services,  I am part of our democracy and  I try and make a difference, that’s a lot to like.  There is stuff I don’t like too, but you didn’t ask me that and they don’t start with p, so that will mess with the vibe I’ve got goin’ here.     

    You recently attended the inaugural HR conference.  What did you take away from that conference that you could put to use back in your workplace?

    A few things really got me thinking, how we can work more quickly, take a “start-up” approach and still ensure we apply effective governance? 

    I enjoyed hearing from other Councils that are taking a more regular and immediate approach to measuring culture and will also be sharing my personal development plan widely which was suggested as part of the discussion about transparency in organisations. 

    On a lighter note, I enjoyed the laughter yoga, you can’t have too much laughter in life so perhaps we’ll be doing a bit of that at PAE (I can hear people fleeing our office as they read this).

    You regularly attend the GM network forums.  What are the main reasons you stay engaged with the GM forums?  If you were advising another GM to attend – what would you say are the main benefits of attendance?

    In addition to getting to catch up with great peeps, share information and ideas I look forward to being out of my day to day work and returning inspired and energised. 

    As senior leaders we have an obligation to support the development of our industry and we have a unique opportunity to work together to solve the complex problems our society faces without being restricted by a sense of competition and confidentially that would restrict us in a private business environment.  

    And as an added bonus it’s usually fun; good life advice, always sit at the fun table. 

    As a member of LG Professionals, you can sit back or get involved and maximise the value of your membership.   You are clearly someone who gets involved!  What do you see as the main benefits, to you and your council – of getting involved?

    Opportunities to share and learn with others are reminders that we are not only part of a Council, we are part of a wider industry that can work together, share knowledge and ideas and challenge each other to be our best.

    While it does benefit us as individuals in our own learning and career development the biggest benefit should be to the community, they pay us and they deserve us to be the best we can be.  We often talk about having engaged and involved communities and then don’t do it ourselves.

    I’ve also been participating in the Executive Leadership Program.  It’s one of the best learning experiences I’ve been involved in and I’d highly recommended it if you are prepared to challenge yourself and stretch your thinking.

    What advice would you have for someone wanting to further their career in local government?  Where would they start, what skills and attitude would they need, what connections are important?

    If you are already in local government take every opportunity in your workplace, apply for acting roles, join project groups, get involved outside your area of expertise, be prepared to do things you’re scared of and don’t think your career is more important than doing your job.  

    Connect with others in Local Government and also make sure you learn from outside LG especially from all the people in your community, they know lots of stuff that you and I don’t.  

    But most of all remember that a rewarding career in LG is not necessarily about climbing a ladder it’s about doing the best we can, doing what we enjoy and doing something that benefits others.  

    Finally – what do you enjoy outside of work?  How do you spend your leisure time?

    I love trail running, travelling and that I live in a City with art, theatre and a festival for everything! 

    I think my next career move is to be a professional attendee of festivals, if I'm not doing that I'm probably gardening or planning a revolution. 

  • 23 Jul 2018 9:47 PM | Anonymous

    This month we speak with Catherine Loder, Governance Officer, Wattle Range Council.

    Catherine speaks to us about working for a rural council, the excitement being part of the winning team in the Rural Management Challenge last year - and how her participation in the ELP (Emerging Leaders Program) helped her both on the day, and in the preparation for the event.

    What's your current role, and what does in involve?
    I am Council’s Governance Officer and work part-time. A current key project I am leading is the council elections. Other core elements that I work on include policies, delegations, authorisations, Freedom of Information, maintaining council’s website, obligations under the Local Government Act, reporting to council and council committees.

    I also dabble in some side projects such as developing Council’s SharePoint site and helping to automate processes where possible.   
    What do you enjoy most about working for a rural council?
    Most of all I enjoy the diversity of work and that there is always something different or a new challenge that I get to be a part of. I also enjoy the working relationships with other regional councils and being able to share experiences across our network.
    Last year, Wattle Range Council won the Rural Management Challenge.   How did it feel to be part of the winning team?
    It was wonderful to hear our Council being named the winner. We all put in our best effort and it was nice to be recognised for this. 
    How did your team members react? 
    With great surprise! Our goals were to have fun, learn and grow, which we all felt we had achieved through participating. Winning was an added bonus!  
    What have been the key benefits of participation in the Rural Management Challenge - to both team members and your council?
    Collectively we have gained broader understanding of the diverse functions of council. The pre-challenge task started conversations across the whole council, which are continuing.
    What positives did you personally take away from the experience?  Has it changed your perspective on your career goals?  How?
    Participating in the challenge meant that I was able to extend myself on tasks that are not part of my normal role. Through the feedback received and our team success, I feel more confident that I have the skills and capabilities to make my career goals achievable.
    Has the council used the team for anything else since the Rural Management Challenge (e.g. as a cross-functional team?) 
    Our team has reconvened on a couple of occasions to present to council’s Executive Leadership Team and the full staff body.

    Our council sometimes pulls together a multi-disciplinary team to approach a project- the team members will usually be dependent on the project. 
    How have you, and your fellow team members grown since the Rural Management Challenge (in terms of career, opportunities, capabilities, leadership)?
    We are all still part of Wattle Range Council, with one member securing full-time employment with council following completion of their traineeship.

    We are all working towards our own goals and aspirations such as undertaking tertiary studies, further training, taking on voluntary positions in council or taking on leadership of projects where possible.  
    Did your experience gained through doing the ELP help your team's approach to the Rural Management Challenge?  What skills/experience from the ELP came in handy?
    The Rural Management Challenge provided me with many opportunities to directly apply what I learnt during the ELP.

    Being able to better understand team dynamics, change management and values-based approaches were some of the key experiences that I found myself drawing upon regularly.
    Would you recommend the Rural Management Challenge to other rural councils thinking of participating for the first time?
    Yes. If you have people in your organisation that are looking to develop themselves, expand their thinking, change the way they are going about their business, or perhaps need an opportunity to work outside the confines of the office, then I think the Rural Management Challenge has something to offer.
    A final word - Can you provide some tips on how to get the most out of the Rural Management Challenge?
    The preparation time in the lead up to the challenge day is very valuable. Get to know your team and what you want to achieve as a team and individuals.

  • 22 Jun 2018 9:41 PM | Anonymous

    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).

  • 24 May 2018 8:53 AM | Anonymous

    This month we speak with Darren Birbeck, General Manager Corporate Services at the City of Charles Sturt.

    Darren speaks about the power of clear and positive language in motivating and leading staff, as well as outlining a number of his key projects and objectives.

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

    In my role as General Manager Corporate Services at the City of Charles Sturt, I work closely with the executive and leadership teams to help achieve our Community Plan goals and objectives. It’s an exciting time at Charles Sturt, as we deliver our largest ever capital works program which includes the redevelopment of the St Clair Recreation Centre, the Port Road drainage project, the redevelopment of our Waste Management Centre and the revitalisation of Point Malcolm Reserve.

    I am really fortunate to have a fantastic team which covers the areas of Finance, Information Services, People & Culture, Governance & Operational Support and Media, Marketing & Communications.

    Some of the new initiatives that we are currently working on include rolling out our Digital Workplace Strategy, review and redesign of our Leadership Development program, the launch of a new Corporate Wellbeing Program, an in-depth review of our recurrent budgets and the completion of our draft Smart City Strategy.

    We continue to seek better ways to communicate with our residents and have recently launched Charlotte, our intelligent chatbot on Facebook, delivered three live streamed events to Facebook, introduced a live Panomax camera at St Clair to monitor progress and our internal communications team have shot drone footage of Point Malcolm Reserve and the Port Road drainage projects.

    What attracted you to local government, and your current role?
    It is incredibly gratifying to work for an organisation that is dedicated to providing services to the local community. Having worked in the Aged Care sector for over a decade, it was important for me to continue my career in a role that delivers positive outcomes for people.
    The role at Charles Sturt was very appealing; in addition to the broad range of services we provide, I was also attracted by the positive culture of the organisation. Charles Sturt has a strong commitment to a constructive workplace culture which I believe is critical to the success of any organisation.

    You mentioned that you came from the Aged Care Sector.  Local government is known for often using too much jargon and many acronyms – how have you found this?  Is there anything you are doing to combat this practice?
    To be honest, jargon and acronyms litter most sectors, industries and professions. While local government has its fair share, I haven’t found it any more daunting than in finance, aged care or the automotive industry, where I have also worked.

    For a large part of my career, it has been my role to explain organisational performance to an audience from outside the sector or the profession in which I have worked. As a result, I try to avoid using jargon and acronyms wherever I can.

    I believe it is important to put yourself in the shoes of your audience. The best way to get your point across is to deliver it in a way that resonates with the people that you are communicating with. By using jargon and industry specific acronyms, you are effectively alienating your audience.

    How do you use the power of language to motivate your staff?
    My natural style is a collaborative and consultative one. What drives me is seeing people reach their full potential whilst achieving extraordinary outcomes. I pride myself in being able to communicate with people from across the organisation and it is these interactions that inspire me to come to work each day. I tend to use every day examples from my own experience to demonstrate ideas and motivate staff to achieve great results.

    I am passionate about the work that we do for the community and do my best to communicate this to my colleagues. My tendency is to use optimistic and achievement focussed language to motivate the people I work with.

    How important is using clear language in providing a strategic direction to your team?  Why?
    It is absolutely critical to provide clarity when setting a strategic direction for your team. By using clear language, you minimise the risk of any ambiguity which could lead to misunderstanding and confusion.

    Positive language is especially important in conducting performance reviews.  What advice do you have for our readers about conducting reviews?  What works well, and what doesn’t?
    Given my preferred coaching/collaborative style I always take a positive mindset into performance reviews. From my perspective it is critical to achieve a shared and honest assessment of an individual’s performance, while delivering it in a respectful and consistent manner.

    I believe that the most critical aspect to performance reviews is that they occur continuously throughout the year. This helps ensure that performance reviews become an ongoing conversation, rather than a once in a year event.

    Like many parts of business, Corporate Services is a function likely to undergo significant change, through technology and other influences, in coming years.  How will you manage the challenge of constant change?
    I cannot recall a time in my career when the Corporate Services function hasn’t been subject to significant change! I believe that it is a matter of developing flexible and dynamic plans that can adjust to changes in the internal and external environment. For me, adaptability and resilience are important attributes in dealing with constant change. A sense of humour also helps.

    What keeps you busy outside of work?
    My wife Kylie and I have two adult children who are finishing their university degrees and we are extremely proud of their achievements. Every Saturday we cheer on our son who plays for the Happy Valley Vikings, the club he has played with since he was six years old. Meanwhile his big sister continues her passion for dancing, performing in a troupe with ’That’s Dancing’ at Warradale.

    Aside from the kids, travel is our passion and we are fortunate enough to have visited South East Asia extensively, as well as trips to the US, Great Britain and South America.

    Highlights have included celebrating Hogmanay in Edinburgh, kayaking in Borneo and visiting Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.

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