Recognising local government’s high achievers

Jane Trotter, General Manager Community Development, City of Salisbury, South Australia

City of Salisbury Councillors Betty Gill, Alex Coates and Chad Buchanan nominated Jane Trotter for her work as General Manager of Community Development and her leadership of the Local Government Managers Association (LGMA) Challenge Team. Jane talked to LG Focus about her work in local government.

I started my working life as an economist in the then Federal Department of Employment Education and Training, working in a range of project officer roles in the areas of youth policy, economic analysis, industry analysis and strategic planning. Subsequently, I began studying for my MBA while I worked as a management consultant and market researcher.

Having completed assignments for a few local councils, I was attracted to the idea of working in local government and, around 12 years ago, I applied for the role of Corporate Planner at the City of Playford – an urban fringe council in Northern Adelaide. From there I moved into a senior role within Council as Group Manager Corporate Strategy and Finance.

After five years at Playford, and wanting to expand my knowledge and experiences in Corporate Services, I moved to the position of Manager Governance and Administration at the City of Unley, a small inner City Council in the east of Adelaide. After three years there I was successful in gaining the role of General Manager Corporate and Community Services at the City of Burnside, again in the eastern suburbs of Adelaide.
My experience at Burnside gave me the knowledge and confidence to apply for the role of Director Corporate Development at the City of Salisbury. Salisbury is a large and highly progressive council located in the northern suburbs of Adelaide. An internal restructure eight months ago led to a new role for me, as General Manager Community Development.

Skills, strengths & achievements

Having worked in a number of councils and across a broad range of roles I see myself as a generalist manager with strong leadership skills and knowledge across the breadth of services councils provide.

I bring particular strengths to Council in the areas of strategic planning, change management, community engagement and facilitation. I am also very involved in my professional association as I am passionate about giving something back to the sector and assisting others in their professional development and achieving their career aspirations.

I am currently President of the SA Division of LGMA and a Director of the Board of LGMA National. I also enjoy mentoring aspiring staff and have been involved as an executive mentor of our LGMA Management Challenge team for a number of years.

In terms of achievements, I was proud to be involved in the development of the City of Salisbury’s Structure Plan and Revitalisation Strategy. As the Salisbury Town Centre is earmarked to become one of Adelaide’s major activity centres by 2040, in accordance with the 30 Year Plan for Greater Adelaide, Council embarked on an 18–month process to gain input from key stakeholders and the wider community. This was a flagship community engagement project for the Council, and a practical demonstration of a new best practice philosophy.

I was involved in this process as Executive Sponsor and Chair of the Community Engagement and Marketing Group. The engagement process used in the project exemplified how innovative techniques that involve visual tools to excite the imagination can be used effectively to involve the ‘hard to engage’ communities in developing a long-term strategic plan. The approach also demonstrated the importance of tapping into existing networks and building partnerships to leverage resources and build widespread community support for future change.

Approximately 1800 people participated throughout the project which is a significant number considering the ‘hard to reach’ community the makes up the City of Salisbury.

The key to good leadership

For me, leadership is about being very clear about the direction the organisation needs to go in and then empowering your people to achieve their goals and objectives. It is about coaching, providing support and clearing any roadblocks at the senior and/or political levels.

To sum it up, I believe people expect their leaders to be visionary, approachable, honest, hardworking and consistent in their behaviour and treatment of others.