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CEO decision probably most important to be made this term

Opinion Piece

Choosing their next chief executive is a critical decision for Gisborne District councillors and the Mayor at a time when they face a number of challenges.

The council decided last year not to exercise its right to automatically reappoint Judy Campbell for a further two years and to instead advertise the position. Mrs Campbell confirmed yesterday that she was not one of the 25 applicants.

That leaves the council with the task of appointing only the fourth chief executive in its 27-year existence, the others being the late Bob Elliott and Lindsay McKenzie — whom the council also did not automatically reappoint, triggering his departure to Tasman District Council. It is a surprising example of continuity in a sphere where change is almost constant . . . although it can be noted that Mr Elliott took up more than half the time.

Appointing a new CEO will probably be the most important decision the council makes in its current three-year term.

Under the framework set up as part of the 1989 amalgamation, it is the only job the council has any direct impact upon. The chief executive picks the staff from there on, a situation that has rankled councillors at times.

Institutional knowledge is vital to the good-functioning of a council, something that is not helped by the fact the council has lost some key senior staff in the past few years — although there have been some talented replacements.

Mrs Campbell was not afraid to make changes, reorganising the staff structure soon after her arrival, with some job losses — which did not make her universally popular. Her main focus has been on achieving everything on the council’s works programme while keeping overall rate rises at not more than 2 percent.

She warned the council at the last Future Tairawhiti committee meeting of “wishlist” clouds on the horizon that will threaten this goal.

Whoever comes in her place faces immediate challenges. The pressure is on the council to choose wisely, because the stakes are high.