Lake Macquarie City Council will farewell its General Manager of the past 11 years, Brian Bell, next week.
I was on the panel that selected Brian to lead the administrative arm of our council in 2006.
I have enjoyed a good working relationship with him in the years since and he has been a great support in recent months as I settled into the role of Mayor.
Brian is not the kind of person to trumpet his achievements but his influence on this council, and indeed this city, has been transformative.
Brian led the development in 2007 of a 10-year plan to make our council more financially sustainable, in order to enhance its ability to deliver the facilities and services our fast-growing community needs.
When NSW councils were assessed as part of the Fit for the Future reforms in 2015, Lake Macquarie satisfied all financial performance criteria – efficiency, sustainability, and infrastructure and service management – which put us in a strong position to successfully lobby to remain a stand-alone organisation, despite the review’s recommendation that we amalgamate with Newcastle.
Brian has had an equally important impact on the way we as a council communicate with and serve our community.
His goal has been to make council an organisation that puts customers at the centre of everything it does, an ethos that is reflected in council’s high community satisfaction rating of 93 per cent and its strong focus on community consultation.
Brian has also been a champion of council’s focus on fairness and equity, our drive to improve accessibility and inclusion, promote Indigenous culture and acknowledge the rich history of our city’s first inhabitants.
His influence has been felt within the workplace, too, where staff enjoy a very positive culture.
Employees at council feel valued, have pride in their work and are encouraged to grow in their roles.
These qualities are hallmarks of Brian’s leadership, perhaps stemming from his own origins in local government working on the front counter of a shire council in Western Australia more than 50 years ago.
I wish Brian well in retirement and thank him for his many contributions to our city.
Cr Kay Fraser
Mayor of Lake Macquarie