MELVILLE council has chosen its first-ever female CEO, opting to stay in-house and promote community development director Gail Bowman to the top job.
Ms Bowman has worked at Fremantle, Cockburn and Melville councils over the last 30 years, and having been in executive roles for the last five years says she was ready to step up.
“I was keen to move back into more of a strategic and governance role, and the CEO role was the next step,” Ms Bowman said.
She sees her ability to work collaboratively with the community and council as one of her key strengths, which will be put to the test in an organisation which only recently got a warning from the local government department that it was sliding into disfunction.
“It’s really important to understand what the community priorities are, and then work with the mayor and the councillors to understand what the council-led priorities are, so that you can have that strategic alignment between what the community and the council want to achieve.”
Ms Bowman said they had also been working on a “robust” governance framework at the City.
“Some of those things are looking at the committee structures that we currently have in place, so that there’s good opportunity for the council to look at the strategic direction and the policy direction at that level.
“It’s really critical that [councillors] are involved in the strategy, the policies and also the budget.”
It also looks at communication between councillors, staff and the community, one of the areas the City was criticised over in the 2019 state inquiry.
Ms Bowman says there’s already been improvement internally.
“There’s been some really good strategies put in place with elected member engagement sessions where the administration or the executive and the elected members come together, and they can discuss different topics and issues.”
“From a community perspective, we’ve got a good engagement framework, which is about understanding and listening to the community.
“We’ll make sure that what we are able to answer we will answer, but sometimes, you know, the questions may not be appropriate to answer as well.”
Ms Bowman says appointing a female CEO was a “milestone achievement” for Melville.
“Obviously, we’ve had female mayors in the past, but it’s nice to be able to say that I’m the first female CEO; it’s a great achievement for Melville.
“Looking at diversity of gender and cultural background, we’ve got a diverse community that we serve.”
Ms Bowman has lived in the city for 18 years which she says gives her an extra passion for the job and an advantage in understanding the community.
“My kids went to different sporting clubs, I was volunteer sporting manager for different clubs, at the local playgroup, schools; all of those things where I saw lots of community connections,” she said.
Mayor George Gear said Ms Bowman was a unanimous choice of the selection committee and council.
“Gail’s been here a year in the community development realm, so first of all, effectiveness,” Mr Gear said of what the council saw in their new CEO.
“The fact that she was she works cooperatively, she looks forward and she’s a good thinker.
“Collaboration is one of her strong points, and that’s what we need; when the council and the administration work together is when we’re most effective.”
Ms Bowman describes her leadership style as “authentic and empathetic”.
“One of my strengths is that I really try to listen to people to understand what their needs are, and really lead from a value-based perspective.
“I’ve got strong values regarding integrity, caring, and empathy.”
by STEVE GRANT