Recognising Council high achievers

At the 2002 Local Government Managers Australia National Congress in Sydney, FOCUS invited delegates to nominate an individual and team from their Council who are excelling in their field and promoting the organisation’s corporate goals. In this edition we showcase two more of the competition winners.

Individual Winner – Katrina Skellern, Community Development and Services Manager, Dorset Council, Tasmania

In this edition we feature the individual achievements of Dorset Council’s Katrina Skellern, Community Development and Services Manager. Dorset is situated to the north east of Tasmania and has a population of 7,205. It is surrounded by coastal beaches, patchwork farmlands and temperate rain forests.

Katrina has worked at Council for two years, having previously worked in the Northern Territory as a Local Government Project Officer for the Department of Sport and Recreation.

“Through working with Local Government in the NT, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and wanted to work within Local Government at a local level,” Katrina Skellern said. “I also wanted to consider a step up the ladder into management and saw the Dorset Council position as a challenge, and that is what I like – so I moved!”

Katrina is also a world class triathlete, having represented Australia at the World Championships.

“Her commitment to training is reflected in her 100 per cent commitment to the tasks she undertakes at work,” said Dorset Council General Manager and nominator of Katrina, Greg Preece.

As Community Development and Services Manager, Katrina is responsible for establishing a management system to administer all of Council’s properties, public buildings and recreation facilities. She also manages tourism, youth and health services while simultaneously performing essential community development functions.

“On her arrival, Katrina quickly showed her ability to relate well to people and make friends,” Greg Preece said. “Her energy and enthusiasm to tackle difficult tasks very quickly came to the forefront.”

In the short time that she has been at Council, Katrina has initiated the Dorset Tourism Board and secured funding for a full time Tourism Officer, as well as funding for a Youth Health Officer. In total she has secured over $800,000 in funding.

“There is a lot of funding out there, it is a matter of applying for the most effective bucket and using it well,” she said.

As well as this, Katrina assisted in organising the ‘Future Dorset’ conference which brought together 80 Dorset community members to chart a strategy for the future of the Dorset community. There is no doubt that much of her work involves plenty of interaction with the local community. “Katrina’s role is critical to Council as her work involves dealing directly with individuals and community groups,” said Greg Preece. “To manage all the changes and the introduction of new management systems, Katrina needed to win the confidence of both the Dorset community and Council.”

The biggest challenge to date has been establishing a new management system for Council’s buildings and facilities.

“When I was first appointed, Greg provided me with a clear indication of the direction he would like me to take,” said Katrina. “I knew the role would be a challenging one, but I underestimated the challenges.”

Due to the magnitude of the task at hand, Katrina convinced Council to fund a study to examine the state of the facilities and to develop a framework for a new management system, where the community would take care of their own facilities.

“This process required considerable resolve, hard work and energy to satisfy the community of the legitimate purpose and intent of the study,” said Greg Preece.

With the formation of Area Management Committees, Katrina and Council were able to empower the community to manage facilities in their own areas.

“Katrina has worked hard to develop a climate of partnership and community ownership of decision making and planning,” Greg Preece said. “Her hard work and commitment to involving the community in all stages of the development process has paid dividends. As an agent for sustainable development, Katrina is often the target of negative feedback and hostility. She maintains a positive, determined outlook and strives always to achieve through her total commitment, and consultation, consultation, consultation!”

Katrina said that the most satisfying aspect of her job is the ability to have influence, get things done at a local level and make a difference to people’s lives for a positive future.

“The staff are wonderful, it’s a very enjoyable working environment, I get a lot of help whenever I want it from my colleagues, and not to forget my General Manager,” she said. “If it wasn’t for his support many of the projects would not have come to fruition. I am a firm believer in the individual capacity to make things happen and get the job done well. If you have the right personality and ability to see the big picture, then many doors will open for you.”

Team Winner – Call Centre Team, City of Port Adelaide Enfield, South Australia

Customer Service is an essential facet of Council’s operations. More often than not, Customer Service Officers are the first point of call for residents and ratepayers. Therefore, their work is important to the relationship Council has with the community. The Call Centre Team at the City of Port Adelaide Enfield is a fine example of excellent customer service in Local Government. Nominated by City of Port Adelaide Enfield Councillor, Mike Stock, it is their achievements as a team that we feature in this edition of FOCUS.

The City of Port Adelaide Enfield is one of the largest metropolitan Councils in South Australia. Council provides facilities and services to a growing population of 101,000 residents and some 7,000 businesses. Bearing this in mind, the Call Centre Team is made up of 15 officers responding to customer queries from both residents and businesses. It is now headed by Call Centre Coordinator, Kay Douglas, having previously been coordinated by Faye Spence.

“The Call Centre is a ‘one stop shop’ for all enquiries, both over the phone and face to face,” said Councillor Stock. “Customers should be able to do all business with the Team without having to be referred to other areas. Our aim is to achieve first call resolution at 85 per cent and face to face and phone at 80 per cent. The Team is crucial to Council’s operations. Every call and every personal visitor has initial contact with the Call Centre and the Team’s professionalism, knowledge and willingness to assist, provides the customer’s first impression and therefore a long lasting perception of Council services.”

An integral part of the Team’s roles is to log all customer requests for action on a database record system. It requires all customer details to be entered before distributing the request to the appropriate officer.

“The system ensures that tasks are attended to within a required time, therefore improving Council’s customer service standards further,” said Councillor Stock.. “The Team have been involved in establishing, testing and implementing this system. There will be ongoing training for new and existing staff on its use.”

Kay Douglas said that it is a pleasure to work with the Call Centre Team. “They are very proactive in making improvements in all aspects of the Call Centre,” she said. As with any team, cooperation and support are key to its success. This is no different with the Call Centre Team.

“Their ability to work so well together as a team and support each other has a major impact in the end result of the high quality service offered,” said Kay Douglas.

She said that to achieve such a high level of service, the Team has been proactive in promoting their own training and development by committing to training outside the requirements of Council. Some of these initiatives that the Team has undertaken include Partnership Agreements with various Council departments, and completion of Certificate III in Telecommunications over a one year period.

“Through feedback from the community, Council is perceived as a professional, friendly and efficient service provider,” Councillor Stock said. Approximately ten compliments per week are received and these most often relate to courteous and very prompt service.

“It is most satisfying to work with such a professional team and know that we are providing an excellent service to customers, both external and internal, and seeing the good results at the end of the day,” said Kay Douglas.