Future directions in administration and management systems

Future directions is a regular feature. This month we interviewed Russell Peate, CEO District Council of Grant, South Australia.

With 27 years experience in the Local Government sector, Russell Peate is currently CEO of the District Council of Grant in South Australia and President of Local Government Managers Australia (LGMA) South Australian Division.

He believes that leadership, coaching and team mentoring are crucial elements in being a good manager/administrator.

“Managers and administrators must be accessible and have great communication skills to connect with both Council and the community,” he said. “They need to listen, and where possible, implement suggestions from the team, Council and the community.

“Above all, managers and administrators must demonstrate perseverance in dealing with competing demands and in achieving strategic projects.”

Russell identified key challenges facing Local Government managers as the following:

  • the increasing needs and demands of the community
  • financial sustainability
  • skills shortages
  • developing genuine partnerships with State and Federal departments/agencies, and community organisations
  • progressing strategic projects and issues while maintaining daily operations
  • generating more participative community engagement
  • employing and creating a skilled, proactive and customer focused workforce.

He said that these issues can be addressed through training, promoting team members internally and providing more workplace flexibility.

“Family friendly initiatives and semi retired options for employees are just some ways Councils can work towards becoming employers of choice,” he said. “At the District Council of Grant, we will be using the ‘Shape your World’ program, along with initiatives to attract and retain staff.

“These programs will become even more important in the future, as an ageing population evolves.”

Russell Peate said Councils can be prepared for the ageing population with better succession planning, and continued workplace flexibility.

“Councils need to implement initiatives and incentives to retain staff as the working population base decreases,” he said. “Employers will have to engage people who have not been in the workforce before, and we will need to provide continued training for Council team members.”

Russell Peate said an ageing population will also create different community needs.

“The older population will have different demands for services and facilities,” he said. “Communities are becoming less tolerant, making strategic projects more difficult to achieve. The public are better informed of their rights and responsibilities and this will generate further demands for community engagement.

“It will be more important than ever to listen to your community, thus empowering and working with them to prioritise projects and services.”

Russell Peate said Councils will not only need to look at stepping up communication with their communities, but with other organisations as well.

“A higher level of regional cooperation will be required,” he said. “We will need better collaboration and shared services between Councils, State agencies, departments and community organisations.”