PORT Macquarie-Hastings Council's new chief executive officer is pulling no punches just two weeks into the top job.
Dr Clare Allen says council needs strong leadership, a long-term visionary plan that caters for the region's next seven generations and to listen to the community and balance their expectations against the many challenges and competing demands of the business.
And she wants all residents to be a part of the collaborative planning process and for all levels of government step up and work with council on important, grassroots decision-making.
It will be council, but not as you know it.
Dr Allen says it's time for change.
Earning a place as a CEO in her 20s and armed with a doctorate in business administration, Dr Allen comes with an impressive leadership portfolio in the community service, employment, aged care, youth and disability sectors. She is driven by good governance and is an exceptional strategic thinker.
"Now I get to do what I really want to do - that is, live and work in a community I can really connect to," Dr Allen said.
"Council was looking for a leader and I am here to step into that role. I am here to look at this organisation and look at the community and create long term sustainability. I'm here to collaborate (with the community), engage, show leadership and direction."
Dr Allen will be connecting with the "pulse" of the community in her first few months and getting the house in order. The organisation must be progressive, adaptable and prepared for change, she says.
"I am here to make seventh generational decisions. That is, how are the decisions this council makes going to affect the next seven generations," she explained.
"I'm a visionary leader. If we think about a big vision for our community we will start to strategise. That is about making robust decisions our community, our ratepayers, our business community can live with and say 'wow we've got a vibrant future, a liveable community and all are welcome'.
"I want to make sure we do things in a consistent way, we are prioritising our business and making better decisions that create more productivity."
This council was looking for a leader and they agreed we needed a way forward - this is a line in the sand.
On the divide that has persisted between elected officials and allegations of bullying and harassment by councillors and staff, Dr Allen says she will have none of it.
"You hear about bullying and harassment across a number different councils, not just Port Macquarie-Hastings Council. I'll make it clear - I have a zero tolerance for that," she said.
She plans to re-engage staff with the policies that underpin employee conduct and is exploring an "external whistleblower hotline".
"This council was looking for a leader and they agreed we needed a way forward - this is a line in the sand," Dr Allen said about the legacy of instability.
"This is an opportunity for us to work together to collaborate and make a difference for our community.
"Every single person who is elected has one reason to be elected - to make a difference in the community they love and to represent the ratepayers. So let's unite people with that one mandate."
We need state and federal government to get with us, and to get behind us, so we can actually make a difference.
Dr Allen will be seen out and about at community forums and is encouraging feedback so she can gauge community expectations.
"This council needs to collaborate on a greater footprint," she said.
"My role is to lead and bring all stakeholders together so we can broker some fantastic outcomes for our community.
"Local government is not here to do everything. There are state government responsibilities, there are federal government responsibilities.
"We need state and federal government to get with us, and to get behind us, so we can actually make a difference."
Dr Allen said she will not be compromising on good governance and will ensure the organisation is driven by a business excellence framework.
The way we have always done things cannot be our mantra. I don't want to hear that from anyone.
"All of the great companies that you see follow a framework, so why wouldn't we as a council. We have a great responsibility with ratepayers' money," she said.
"We know right now with the data lots of people are coming here to stay because of COVID.
"Is it a flash in the pan, or is it a reality and here to stay? We do need to have a plan either way. We need to think about these things from a future perspective. We need to be flexible and adaptable.
"The way we have always done things cannot be our mantra. I don't want to hear that from anyone.
"What we need to do is make decisions that are contemporary."
What else is making news?
Thank you for supporting local journalism with your subscription.