Former Freo ports chief ran a tight ship

As a public school graduate who rose to the top ranks of the WA public service, building a curriculum vitae packed with corporate and civic contributions, Kerry Sanderson is more than just an inspiration to women.

Born in Subiaco in 1950, Mrs Sanderson attended Wembley Primary School.

She was among the first students at Churchlands Senior High School in 1963 before studying science and economics at the University of WA.

Recruited as a graduate by WA Treasury, where she spent 17 years rising to the top of the economic policy division, Mrs Sanderson later switched to the Department of Transport and served as deputy director-general for four years.

A 17-year stint as chief executive of Fremantle Ports between 1991 and 2008 attracted wide acclaim, culminating in the authority winning the prestigious Australian Business Excellence Medal.

Tackling head-on industrial upheaval on Australian waterfronts, Mrs Sanderson cut port staff by 40 per cent and introduced enterprise bargaining agreements, slashing ship turnaround times by 45 per cent and doubling container handling rates within two years.

Fremantle Ports chief executive Chris Leatt-Hayter said yesterday that Mrs Sanderson "guided the organisation through the major changes needed to achieve the commercial orientation and reputation for business excellence it has today".

Mrs Sanderson chaired Ports Australia and was named an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2004 for services to the development and management of the port and maritime industries.

She also served as WA's agent-general in London between 2008 and 2011 where she was credited with forging strong links in Europe for WA exports and investment.

Mrs Sanderson is the independent chairwoman of the State Emergency Management Committee, which guides WA's disaster policy framework.

It is just one of many positions she will have to quit to become governor, including corporate posts as director at Atlas Iron, St John of God Health Care and engineering firm Downer EDI.

Churchlands high school principal Neil Hunt said yesterday: "We are very proud that one of our alumni has gone on to such an honour."

The West Australian

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