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Monday, 2 November 2009

'Negotiating the overlap' ~ political-management leadership

Cr Shane Bourke, Mayor of Wyndham City Council, Victoria, and recently retired CEO Ian Robins – transcript of an extract from a conversation filmed by Annie Guthrie and John Martin on 4 September 2009 Cr Shane Bourke: He was a - quite an interesting minister, and he said “Always remember, Shane, there’s a little bit of Darebin in all of us.” CEO Ian Roberts: Hm SB: You know. So. Things like that. So, that was like, as far as I was concerned he was trying to give a message, like, you know - IR: Ah SB: - this is what councillors should do. IR: Yeah. Although it was a message about – erm - I guess, there’s always a temptation to follow self-interest a bit, and remember that you’re really here for the community’s interest. SB: That’s exactly right. IR: That’s what it’s really about. SB: We are always lucky here because the culture had always been here like that and it still is today. You know it’s followed through. IR: Mm. Yeah. So in terms of the practicalities of the relationship, from your point of view, what would you say were the key issues? SB: I just did what I was told. Whatever you told me to do I just did it. IR: I don’t think so. SB: I just did it. I think with the relationship – on a serious note – I think what it was about was about trust and I can say to you, all those times, and you know I was Mayor three times under you, that I trusted you implicitly. IR: I was CEO under you, but – sorry - not Mayor SB: No no IR: – the Mayor was on top - SB: Whichever way. Yeah. To me it was a partnership. I never looked at - this person was on top or this person was under. I think it was about – it was about a partnership – a clear partnership of you as CEO, me as Mayor, councillors and your executive, but you knew what you had to do and I knew what I had to do. R: Yeah, I think there was a fair degree of clarity about the roles – SB: Yeah IR: -and I had no interest in politics - SB: Nope IR: - and you had no interest in management fundamentally – SB: Exactly IR: - and that was, sort of, useful, although ironically – erm - as CEO you’ve got to be politically aware and I – SB: That’s right IR: - whether it’s advocacy and those sorts of issues. SB: Yeah IR: I think that was important. The other thing which I think was very important at the time, was – er - the city had a clear vision of the future – SB: Hm IR: - er - with the long term community plan. I think that was very valuable and that provided a very strong basis for communication - SB: Hm IR: - and then I think the – er – of course there was a couple of major advocacy campaigns with the freeway – SB: Hm IR: - and the toxic dump and - and those issues, and they were very uniting in many ways –
SB: They were. But the toxic dump - IR: They were polarising too – SB: Well they could of, but I suppose because from day one of that elected council of '97 you know and when we’re talking about relationships and things, I think because we were galvanised as an organisation even – even – with the community – but within the organisation, elected members and also - er - the administration, so everybody was galvanised and everybody was working for it, and you can remember through that period of time the One Nation Party was an issue – IR: Yeah SB: - coming - coming to Wyndham and instead of us being too hysterical about it because it was pretty hurly-burly there, we set a citizenship ceremony up on a particular night and all the people that could have been a concern went to that – IR: Yeah SB: So we took the oxygen away from what that was about. IR: Yeah. That also was an underlying – erm – philosophy of council which I found very – er - refreshing at the time. The council said that if it impacts on the Wyndham community we’ll do something about it. If it doesn’t we’ll stay out of it, and – er – that meant like the East Timor thing was around and some councils were getting involved in that. As far as Wyndham was concerned it didn’t impact on the Wyndham community. It’s a federal matter. Leave it to the federal government. SB: Yeah that’s right. IR: Stay out of it. One Nation – federal matter until – erm - it was in Wyndham then you dealt with it as you saw fit. Then stayed out of it. And that was, I guess, a very strong message – er - for the senior staff and the staff generally of what council was really about.
(A circular that outlines the workshops John Martin and I are running in Australia this month)
John Wolseley 'There is no desert but was once a name' 1997

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