Meander Valley GM is Tasmania's top boss

General Manager of Meander Valley Council in Tasmania, Geoff Fellows has struck a blow for Local Government, winning the 1997 Tasmanian Boss of the Year Award. Geoff was nominated for the annual award, presented by the Secretaries and Administrators Association, by Personal Assistant Leanne Harrison.

"Geoff shows enormous appreciation of staff and what they do," she said. "Staff enjoy coming to work and work harder because they are happy."

Geoff has worked in Local Government for 40 years, commencing his career with the former Westbury Council. In 1993 he became General Manager of Meander Valley, when Westbury and the former Deloraine Councils amalgamated. Geoff said he was surprised but honoured by the Award. In his 40 years in the workforce he has observed various management styles.

"To be a good boss you have firstly to be a leader," he said. "You have to draw staff towards excellence by your own example. It is also important to be consistent and dependable."

Geoff believes his success is due to his open door policy with staff. He said it is important to be able to 'put the boot on the other foot' and recognise the employee's point of view as well as that of customers.

"By encouraging open discussion, managers can keep their finger on the pulse of what is happening in the organisation and rely on honest feedback," he said. "This is particularly important as Local Government Authorities become bigger organisations and information is not always directly available."

Under the rigours of economic rationalism some people believe that popularity with staff may compromise effectiveness as a Manager. Geoff strongly disagrees. He argues that in treating employees as an integral part of the team you will always get better performance. Staff do not try to hide things and they are not nervous or uncertain about their role.

Geoff has observed many changes in Local Government over his 40 years, with the last five being the most hectic and involving the most difficult managerial decisions.

"Lack of understanding in the Federal and State sectors about the nature of service delivery in Local Government can make the job difficult," he said. "While many politicians have dabbled in Local Government, they do not have broad awareness of the impact their decisions have on different communities."