The new chief executive officer of the City of Albany has vowed to mend broken relationships in council and the City in a bid to win back the community’s trust.
In her first interview with the Albany Advertiser since accepting the position on Monday, former Queensland Health executive director Faileen James said she wanted to leave the City’s controversial past behind.
It came as her departure from Queensland Health made headlines in her home State, where she was the second senior health bureaucrat to leave the agency in the space of three days.
Ms James said repairing relationships and restoring stability would be her initial priority in her new role.
“I would hope very quickly we get some relationship stability within council, amongst executives and between council and the executives,” she said.
“I believe that all successful relationships are truly based on a position of trust and respect.
“When people compromise my experience is that, if they are prepared to work in a spirit of good will, they will find a way to always move forward in a positive way.”
The City has been plagued by a number of controversies over the past 12 months, with the most notable being the departure of former chief executive Paul Richards in March.
Ms James said she had been made aware of the problems at the City but was not willing to comment in detail until she had been fully briefed.
She said she hadn’t sought details of Mr Richards’ claims of bullying, which Mr Richards said were the reasons for his departure and have since been the subject of legal proceedings and an investigation by the Local Government Standards Panel.
“I understand that people have tried to move on,” Ms James said.
“I really don’t want to get embroiled in the past. I’d prefer to go, ‘well that happened in the past but we’ve got to do something proactive now’.”
Ms James said she hoped her appointment would give the City an opportunity for a fresh start.
She said listening to Albany residents would be the key to regaining the community’s support.
“Certainly the councillors I have spoken to are keen to have a refreshed vigour in council and I’m very hopeful that I can support them in doing that,” she said.
Ms James said she was aware of Albany MP Peter Watson’s calls for an investigation into the City’s culture.
Ms James said she hoped to address any culture issues at the City.
“Culture is a thing that – people bandy the word around – but it is integral to an organisation and communities,” she said.
“What we have to do is make sure we are working in a way that is equitable, transparent and respectful.”
Ms James also highlighted her proven financial management skills, an attribute that is certain to be called upon as the City sets about reducing its $20 million debt.
Ms James wants to develop a strategic vision.
“I’m a great believer that it’s no good having plans if they can’t be implemented,” she said.
“But the key for all of that for me is listening to the people in the city.”
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