What has been your favourite project or biggest accomplishment you achieved in your local government career?
My favourite project has been our continuing Citizens’ Panel. Each year we randomly select 50 people from across the Mornington Peninsula to participate in a year-long consultation project. They help us with many tough and tricky decisions, and in return they end the year with much more knowledge about the role of local government.
What I consider to likely be my biggest accomplishment is still ongoing. The Shire has started developing an Urban Forest Strategy to increase tree canopy coverage in our townships within the Urban Growth Boundary. All being well, this will have a positive impact on the Mornington Peninsula for generations to come.
What has been the best advice you’ve been given in your career? What did you learn from it?
As Councillors we receive “advice” on a daily basis, not all of it useful or constructive. Fortunately, I’ve come to this role with quite a bit of prior political experience. The best advice I’ve received in the context of local government is to make peace with the fact that you will never be able to please everyone, and sometimes people will say or do things that you don’t agree with. What I’ve learnt is that this advice a key ingredient to civility in local government, and this knowledge ensures that when (not if) you lose a battle, you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move on to the next challenge. If you’re not a team player and you don’t like local government, this is not the role for you.
Another piece of personal advice I’ve been given. If it’s 5pm on Thursday and you haven’t spoken to your best friend this week. Send them a message.
What opportunities do you think Councils have right now to embrace change and be innovative?
The biggest threat to local governments in Victoria right now is the financial pressure imposed on us by the State Government in the form of rate-capping and cost-shifting. However, that also presents us with our greatest opportunity. When businesses and organisations are forced to respond to financial pressures, they have an opportunity to implement innovative ideas. Business as usual isn’t an option, so we have to embrace the unknown and the risk associated with doing things differently. One opportunity the sector must take advantage of is our post-COVID working environment. With remote working, talent can now come from further afield. The local government sector can offer some amazing opportunities with an unmatched lifestyle balance.
Tough question. My answer changes all the time. At the moment:
"The suffering of being can redeem itself through truth" – Dr Jordan B Peterson
The VLGA acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Victoria and recognises their continuing connection to land, waters and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners, their elders past, present and future, and to their cultures.
The advice provided by the VLGA is intended to be guidance only. It is not a substitute for legal or formal advice from relevant regulatory bodies.
© Victorian Local Governance Association 2023