By Claire Ottaviano
A NEW division headed by a $285,000 job title has been created within the City of Swan to “reinvent” the City’s approach to key problem areas.
The City is currently in the process of hiring a new Place Stakeholder Engagement executive manager whose job will be to lift public trust, counter misinformation, negative media and politics, and improve customer experience.
Echo News sat down with chief executive Jeremy Edwards this week to find out why the restructure, along with its six-figure executive manager salary, was necessary.
“One of the things you do as a new chief executive and new leader in an organisation is go out and listen to your stakeholders, community groups, business groups, internal staff, councillors and external commercial operators and listen to them,” he said.
“What do they see as the challenges dealing with the City, what do they see as the gaps and what do they see as some of the obstacles and opportunities for improvements.
“It all kept coming back to some common themes… stakeholder management, engagement, how we involve stakeholders in planning and how we present ourselves as a city.”
The City of Swan’s most recent community perceptions survey saw satisfaction of community hubs rated high, but engagement and value for money for rates rated very low.
“To me that’s a massive void and disconnect and that’s where we have to focus as an organisation going forward,” he said.
“We want the community to feel engaged, that they’re part of the decision making and that they were consulted in a project so they have ownership of it.
“At the moment we’re hearing that’s not happening.”
While some of the job criteria appeared to overlap his own 2021/22 performance indicators, investigations internally and externally had shown more resources where needed in those areas.
“As the chief executive I’ve got the overall responsibility for the operations of the organisation but it’s my responsibility as well to bring the resources in that I need to be able to deliver,” he said.
He said in the context of the City’s $80 million annual salaries and wages budget, the $285,000 pay package was marginal.
“I am not being dismissive by saying it’s small in terms of a package, it’s a good executive leadership package,” he said.
“But in the scheme of the size of the organisation that we’re leading it’s not a big operational cost for the outcomes and the objectives we want to achieve.
“Not addressing this by not refocusing on trying to address challenges identified to me would be a far greater cost in terms of brand and reputation.”
But some ratepayers disagree, with the Swan Valley Ratepayers and Residents Association sending an email to all councillors asking them to critically review the need for the position.
“Sorting through the fluff of the job description it appears to be a case of the new chief executive implying that he has inherited a dysfunctional relationship between the City and its ratepayers and suppliers not to mention an organisation mired in red tape,” association president Humphrey Boogaerdt said.
“Whilst operations can always be improved and red tape is certainly the scourge of efficient management, this is an implication against the former chief executive and current council that we think is unjustified and the requirement for the position and exorbitant salary package unwarranted.”
Council unanimously supported the restructure in August.