‘Lead on McDuff’: Who should be our new Council CEO?

Perhaps the most important issue for the new council will be the appointment of a new Chief Executive Officer.

The CEO is appointed by the councillors and is accountable to them. The councillors determine the broad policy – through the Council Plan and the annual budget. But it is the CEO who is responsible for the implementation of these policies and the day-to-day management of the organisation.

No matter how good the councillors are or how good their policies, if the CEO is a turkey, residents and ratepayers will suffer.

A series of Ombudsman’s Inquiries showed that the Council before the last election in 2008 was not operating properly. One of the fundamental issues was the then CEO, David Spokes.

The 2008-12 Council appointed a new CEO, Kay Rundle. She has overseen well-managed and coherent change throughout the organisation. The task for the next Council 2012-2016 will be to build on the good work that has been done. Kay Rundle has announced that she is retiring after the 2012 election, so it will be necessary for the new Council to appoint a successor.

Usually Councils appoint CEOs from a comparatively small pool of applicants who have extensive experience in local government. But will this produce the best leader?

I think that in short-listing candidates for the new CEO, the new Council should include experienced CEOs from the public and private sectors. The City of Port Phillip should seek widely in order to get the best possible person for the job. It should not confine itself to those who have cone up through the ranks of local government.

The objection will be that local government is so complex, that only an officer who has come up ‘through the ranks’ will be able to succeed in the role of CEO. There is much truth in this. However, I think that if we can attract an excellent, experienced CEO from outside the ranks of local government officers, then he or she could take advantage of the consulting services offered by former local government CEOs like Peter Johnston or Kay Rundle herself in the future.

Port Phillip is an exciting, vibrant and tolerant place to live. We should aim at getting the best possible CEO.

~ Peter Holland
President, unChain Inc

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