By TONY FOSTER*
In late November, Mayor Tony Foster delivered his annual ‘State of the Council’ report, outlining some of the highlights of the past year and looking forward to 2019. His report is reproduced below:
BRIGHTON Council is very stable, and rarely have we seen changes to our elected representatives, except for resignations after long periods of service, or sadly when some councillors have passed away. The old adage that you can’t escape death or taxes is particularly pertinent here at Brighton.
This year is an exception and I warmly greet our two newest Councillors, Councillor Whelan and Councillor Murtagh. Congratulations to you both and as well, may I say congratulations to all returning Councillors on your re-election.
At this time, it is worth examining why other Councils have a greater turnover of elected members than we do here at Brighton.
There are obvious reasons in extreme cases where factional infighting becomes embedded in a Council to the detriment of the community. Ironically, I expect that each Councillor when elected intended to represent their community, but instead ended up representing their faction of vested interest. Glenorchy City Council and Huon Valley Council are clear examples of where this has occurred and in the lead-up to the most recent elections, even the Hobart City Council got caught up in factional squabbles.
Fortunately for Brighton, our Councillors in the past have not fallen for this trap. Each of us has vehemently kept our independence determined to only act and vote truly for what we believe is in the community’s best interest.
Long may this continue.
As one of our Senior Managers said to me and I quote: “It is amazing to have seen the changes that have happened over the past 15 years since I started work at Brighton” and added: “ Going from a time where we had very little money to spend on projects and had to reduce the standard to try and complete a project within budget to now where we have excellent design and pricing skills that allow us to complete large projects on budget and building everything to the accepted standard.”
No doubt grant funding has been a big help to us and we have worked hard to gain this advantage. None of this has been achieved without the experience and skill of those putting the Grant Applications together so I pass on my compliments to our staff who do not necessarily work in the same departments but work together to achieve great outcomes for our Council and community.
There is no doubt that having a vision and direction with clear strategic objectives, as well as developing broad-ranging masterplans has helped us to be successful in applying for Commonwealth and State grant funding.
So, everyone involved in Brighton Council should be rightly proud. We are a Council with a good reputation – a Council that has earned respect from its peers, as well all tiers of government. Over the years, we have built very solid and productive relationships with successive Commonwealth and State Governments,
This is one aspect of our business of which I’m proud.
While we have evolved dramatically over the past two decades now is not the time to be complacent. We must continue to be progressive, to embrace new ideas and not assume that the same approaches used in the past are still the best.
I am confident that we have the people, resources and capacity to do this.
As an organisation, one of our biggest strengths is having developed a culture that attracts and retains talented and loyal staff. We must guard and protect this as it is one of our critical assets and one that will become increasingly important in the future.
Looking ahead, during this term of Council we will see a transition of a number of our long-serving staff into different roles or retirement.
Council is very fortunate that it has talented, experienced and long-serving staff across all of its senior management, ready and indeed, enthusiastic to play their part and progress their roles as we look towards a successful transition.
In the new year our Council will undertake the important process to develop our Strategic Plan, Financial Plan, Asset Management Plan and associated Council policies.
This will be a great opportunity to set our course for the coming years.
Careful long-term planning will ensure that Brighton remains a sound financial Council and a leader in Tasmania’s local government sector.
While we are all individuals and may often have differing views, we must aim to work as a team and work through any differences we may have in a professional and constructive manner. If we do this openly and fairly, it will ensure the best outcomes for our community.
On the important issue of rates and cost of living pressures on the community, I am regularly asked, how Brighton Council has been able to keep its rate increases to at or below CPI for more than 20 years when other councils have been unable to come anywhere near this achievement.
Well, the answer is very simple. Good planning, sound financial management and a collective commitment from both the elected Councillors and our staff to do the very best for the people of the Brighton Municipality.
I would like to say a little more about all our staff – both those who serve our Council and community indoors and outdoors. Brighton is privileged by the fact that we have been able to attract some of Tasmania’s best talent and retain them to work for our community. I thank them for their long-standing service and commitment. Your efforts often behind the scenes, for our community do not go unrecognised.
It is important that all Councillors are aware of the division of responsibilities that exist between we, as Councillors who are responsible for the governance of the Council and agreeing to our policy direction, and the staff who are responsible for the day-to-day operations and the provision of services to ratepayers and the community.
Our Council recognises this division of responsibilities.
We must always be aware that in the event that this line is crossed, either by staff or elected Councillors, that Council is doomed to fail.
So again, my congratulations to all.
I am looking forward to the next four years with great optimism and confidence. Brighton is in a very sound position. We have enormous potential and opportunities in what is probably the most exciting era that I have witnessed, for our Council and the Brighton municipality, as we continue to grow.
One initiative alone, the opportunity to be involved in the guidance of a new high school for Brighton will enable us to make a great contribution to our community’s future. There are many more.
So as leaders of our community will leave you with this very relevant quote by the American philosopher Jim Rohn:
“The challenge of Leadership is to be strong, but not rude
be kind but not weak, be bold but not bully
be thoughtful but not lazy, be humble but not timid
be proud but not arrogant and have humour, but without folly”.
If we can aspire to achieve those philosophical views, then I believe we can continue to be the most stable and effective Council in Tasmania.
My own personal mantra is Trust, Respect and Communication. (I call it my TRC model). I commit to continue that approach as Mayor – to earn and give trust, to respect the views of others and to communicate as effectively as I am able.
In the meantime, I would like to take this opportunity as this is the last edition of Brighton Community Newsbefore Christmas to wish you good health, happiness and joy during the festive season. I hope you have time to relax during this time with family and friends and whether it be in our municipality somewhere else in Tasmania, or interstate, stay safe. Noeline and I look forward to seeing you in the New Year.
*Tony Foster AM OAM JP is Mayor of Brighton