High Achievers - Jo Sangster Chief Executive Officer, Victoria Daly Regional Council
Victoria Daly Regional Council, Northern Territory (NT) employed a new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in April 2017.
Previously, Ms Jo Sangster had worked extensively, first with the Federal and then the Territory Government, developing and implementing Indigenous policy and programs, and came to Council with knowledge, experience and passion.
Nominated as LG Focus High Achiever by Deputy Mayor, Councillor Gaye Lawrence, for ‘delivering on the ground across our five communities’, the new CEO began by identifying three top priorities in each ward as a place to start rebuilding.
Cr Lawrence said, “Joanne Sangster has turned our council around from one that was financially unstable to one that is placed to generate untied funds into the future.
“She has introduced staff efficiencies across the organisation, developed successful partnerships with other councils and agencies, and demonstrated overall leadership with her ‘can do’ attitude.”
Victoria Daly sits in the Big Rivers Region, covering an area of 154,000 square km.
The region is very diverse and encompasses the remote Indigenous communities of Kalkarindji, Yarralin and Nauiyu as well as the historic mining town of Pine Creek and Timber Creek.
Sangster says that each community is unique and the people who live there are passionate about their communities.
“It’s the connectedness between people and place that I admire.”
History of public service
In making the move to Local Government Sangster was keen to work for an organization that was hands on in improving the everyday lives of remote and regional communities.
“I had a good understanding of how Local Government worked, through serving as an Alderman on the Darwin City Council for 10 years.
“During that time, I was mentored by several outstanding CEOs, who helped me drive significant environmental strategies and build a new Council Pound.”
She finds that the capacity for local government to initiate and deliver projects that meet the expectation of the community is the most rewarding aspect of the job.
“I have lived in The Territory for over 20 years, moving initially to take up a position with the Department of Defence.
“Most recently I worked as a senior public servant for the Northern Territory Government tasked with establishing the Office of Women’s Advancement and then with leading the development and implementation of the Safety is Everyone’s Right – Domestic Violence Reduction Strategy, across ten NT Government Departments.”
Building on trust
“I think the most memorable moment as CEO was being told by Council that they trusted me after being in the position for 12 months,” Sangster muses.
“It had been a very difficult year and I knew that with trust as the foundation, the organization was positioned to grow and take on new challenges.”
Sangster says that a regional council delivers a broad suite of programs on behalf of the Federal and Territory government, as well as traditional local government services.
Her challenge is to, “make sure we get the mix right and to remain focused on delivering the vision that is set by Council.”
Her current goal is to maintain a work place in which people feel valued and have the opportunity to be innovative.
“I invest a lot of my time in growing people within the organization and ensuring that they can see a clear career pathway with us.
“Council is focused on growing Indigenous employment across the region, my goal is to ensure that every dollar spent by the Federal or Territory government with the Victoria Daly Regional Council, contributes to Indigenous employment either through direct employment or training.
“To do this, it is imperative that all levels of government work in close partnership.”