High Achievers - Sam Dilena Manager Infrastructure & Engineering Services, Town of Gawler

Article image - High Achievers - Sam Dilena Manager Infrastructure & Engineering Services, Town of Gawler

Located just beyond the urban fringe of Adelaide, the Town of Gawler is notable for being South Australia’s first country town.  

Nowadays, the area is rapidly transforming: former rural lands are become new residential developments and the population is continuing to grow and diversify.

Town of Gawler Mayor Karen Redman nominated the Council’s Manager Infrastructure & Engineering Services Sam Dilena as a ‘High Achiever’.  

The mayor praised Mr Dilena’s leadership style.
 “He practices inclusive leadership and is somebody that staff really look up to,” Mayor Redman said. “He has created a culture in which staff are comfortable and not afraid to speak their opinions.”

Mr Dilena began his local government career in 2001, at the City of Norwood, Payneham & St Peters – a medium-sized metropolitan council in Adelaide.   

“Having commenced as a young enthusiastic engineer with a customer service focus, in a recently amalgamated council, I was provided many professional development opportunities during my time there,” Mr Dilena told Local Government Focus.

He said he was “provided the opportunity to be exposed to a huge diversity of projects and the mechanics of local government in general.

“It was really rewarding seeing the results of my work making a difference to a community I loved being a part of growing up.”

Mr Dilena said his personal highlight during that time was being involved in a regionally significant stormwater harvesting and reuse project ‘ERA Water’, which involved a number of adjoining councils.    
“Stormwater harvesting is a standout example of a true triple bottom line project that provides enormous ongoing benefits to the whole of the community,” he said.

“This project is now well into its delivery stage and is a credit to those councils still involved.”

In early 2015 he accepted the role as Manager, Infrastructure and Engineering Services with the Town of Gawler.

“I hit the ground running and haven’t had time to look back since,” he said.

Mr Dilena said strong leadership is important to the success of local government operations.

“Personally, I am a strong believer in the culture of an organisation being dictated by those that lead it.  

“Being approachable, open and honest with the team, as well as stepping up when the need arises are key aspects of my leadership style.  

“Within my department I promote a ‘blinkers off’ approach; drive and empower staff to continuously improve the way we do business; and ensure the team are supported, personally and professionally.”

He said the most memorable aspect in his time at Council has been the change that has occurred in the organisation over the last two years.

“An example of that has been the Council’s Field Operations team’s development over that time.

“Moving from a less structured and reactive workforce approach to a highly coordinated one where the year in advance is planned and resourced, over $500k of capital projects (civil and horticulture) are insourced and capacity developed to accept new public assets and spaces delivered by new land development has been well received across the organisation, by elected members and the community in general.”

He said a key challenge at the moment is managing the area’s residential growth.

“Managing infrastructure and open space provisions from new land development, ensuring a sustainable service level outcome for these spaces, their coordinated delivery, maintenance management and long term financial forecasting of costs associated are certainly topical at present.

“An important project being delivered across the department for all infrastructure classes is the recalibration of our 20-year asset planning.  

“Our focus will be to ensure their service levels meet the communities’ expectations now and into the future and are financially sustainable in the long term.”

Into the future, Mr Dilena hopes to focus on “continuing the energy and drive to improve the way we do business, creating a work structure which supports succession planning and continuing to build a professional and culturally aligned team.

Outside of work hours, he said he is aspiring to ‘live a simpler life’.
“This means spending as much time as I can with my family and friends up the River Murray enjoying the thrill of water-sports, on the Yorke Peninsula teaching my boys how to catch King George Whiting, and exploring the world together with my family [these] are my plans for the foreseeable future.”