Councillor profiles - This month from Kelly Howlett, Mayor Town of Port Hedland, WA
Port Hedland is a dynamic town of 18,000 people located in the resource rich Pilbara region of Western Australia, approximately 1800km north of Perth.
My favourite aspects include the huge ore carrier ships, beautiful ocean waters, popular beaches and swimming spots, the Stairway to the Moon, fantastic fishing and the ancient mariners, and the Flatback turtles that nest on our local beaches each nesting season (October to March).
A key challenge facing Council at the moment is adjusting to the changes in the resource industry, ensuring that as an organisation we keep pace and up to date with the changes and importantly support our local small business sector and the broader community to remain sustainable as we normalise and move into the future.
From environmental scientist to Mayor
I started off at the Town of Port Hedland as a member of the Parks and Gardens outdoor labour team (for 18 months). Then I became the Sustainability Development Officer with the Town of Port Hedland for three years. I left the employ of the Town of Port Hedland, but returned and became a Councillor for two years. I have now been the Mayor for just over six and a half years.
Initially being an environmental scientist and a younger active member of the community (I was elected to Council at 30 years of age), I felt I had a different skillset and network that would enable Council to have a broader and more modern focus, which is why I decided to get involved.
I also recognised the ability local government has to work at a ‘grass roots’ level, and that tangibly each day you know what your role is as an Elected Member, and together with a team you are able to directly assist your local community. That desire to assist the community and make things better was a significant driver. I love the fact that Local Government enables you to be involved in decisions that can directly make a positive difference for your community. You can make a difference, and it is great to see when it happens.
My proudest achievement has been the partnerships that Council has been able to foster. During my time as Mayor, there has been a willingness from all sectors of the community to come together and work towards the resolution of issues, some of which had previously been long-standing. Currently the Town of Port Hedland has unprecedented levels of support from all levels of government, as well as from industry, business, and the greater community – and this is a real testament to the relationships that have been built and effective shared working arrangements that have come as a result.
Throughout my time as an elected member, I have focused on improving the relationship between Council and the community. I have monthly Mayoral Coffee sessions in the local shopping centres and it is great to see people coming forward keen to provide not only suggestions to Council, but also reporting on the positives of initiatives and events. Having people come to my office and knowing that Council is keen to hear their issues, by simply making myself available at all times, people not only find that reassuring, but it helps as people feel better knowing that we do care and that together we can develop and implement the solutions.
Getting involved in local government
If you have a passion and a commitment to the betterment of your community, please put your hand up to be involved in local government. Particularly women, as sadly female representation at an elected level is still lacking. You do not require any specific qualification, background, or have to be of a certain age, just a passion and an overall desire to improve the quality of life for your whole community.
You must be broad in your focus, as you will never enjoy and make the most of your opportunities if you are limited in your approach. Make sure you get out there. Interact with groups that you may not have normally, do things in your local community you may not normally do, and really strive to get the most that you can out of your time being on Council. Council can be demanding, but really get out there and enjoy the opportunities to ‘roll up the sleeves’ and get the job done. You get as much from being an Elected Member as you put into it. Grab the opportunity to get involved and make a difference.