Stephen was regularly asked what it was like being Lord Mayor and wrote the following to educate people of the role and responsibilities.
Truth is it was both wonderful and challenging…just like life should be.
It was long hours with significant responsibility, a large number of complex relationships to maintain and ideas to embrace. I was also very aware I had to be a tad more careful about what I say and that I was quotable 24/7! That said, the people I worked with were fantastic, the experiences exceptional and the job satisfaction sky high.
So what does a Lord Mayor do? Local Government “the business of life”; council either provides a service to the community or is expected to know who does provide the service and how to contact them. With nearly 900 staff, $1.3 billion assets and 230,000 daily stakeholders the role is broad but provided scope for me to stamp my own leadership style on the Town Hall and, in turn, the community.
Adelaide City Council is the oldest Local Government in Australia and a capital city hence there is a significant civic responsibility. Australia day now meant swearing in 50 new Australians and speaking in front of 30,000 people whilst Christmas Day was dropping off gifts to shelters to spread the season’s spirit.
The emails, phone calls and invitations to events and meetings came thick and fast and my office team were always on their toes. It included a long list of speaking engagements and I had to be exceptionally disciplined with my time as community meetings, attending events and forums are fundamental to the role and you can never be late!
I sat on several committees, including the Capital City Committee where I worked positively with both the Premier and Deputy Premier. That’s how you get things done and I would not have had it any other way.
I also met regularly with both the Lord Mayors of Australia and Mayors of Adelaide and represent council on the Rundle Mall Management Authority, Reconciliation Committee, Parkland Authority, Audit Committee. I also sat on the Development Assessment Panel.
I was also patron to over 20 valuable causes and have did my best to reinvent the role of Lord Mayor in social media. On twitter I was just behind the Premier in terms of followers and ahead of any other state politician. It’s not a competition, I just liked being accessible and getting people engaged in Adelaide’s future!
Adelaide City Council meetings were held every Tuesday evening, with agendas between 300-1000 pages long depending on the issues at hand. What kind of issues were being considered? We looked at Adelaide Oval, The Royal Adelaide Hospital, Riverfront, Rundle Mall and Victoria Square, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We regularly considered around 30 agenda items in around two and a half hours…a decent effort where governance is the real skill required to make good, informed decisions.
We decided on and implemented four $180 million budgets and prepared a 5 year Strategic Plan, required by law, with enthusiasm. It’s what you don’t read in the papers that is important at times and in-fighting was not been a part this council term.
The little known truth about being Lord Mayor is that I had no executive power (i.e. no personal budget for projects) and with 11 councillors I did not even get a vote at meetings. So how did I get anything done? Being Lord Mayor means helping set a vision to make Adelaide a world class city and then bringing people on that journey. I did done everything within my means to harness communication and influencing skills to motivate people to work together and on balance the feedback I got was that it has worked.
All of this means teamwork is paramount and hence my relationships with council staff, councillors, key stakeholders and State and Federal Government elected members was critical. I am was humbled to have been the custodian of the Mayoral robes and chains and fervently believe this is everyone’s city. The decisions we make as a community, not just the council, is what will make a difference to Adelaide’s future.