No. 1 Ashley Lindsay
THERE can be little doubt the top dog of the 2018 Clarence Valley Power 30 has the hardest job in the region.
When appointed Clarence Valley Council general manager in July 2017, Ashley Lindsay was charged with the job of restoring the council’s financial stability and to win back the public’s trust in the organisation. Neither task was a gimme.
In the previous two years, the council, under different leadership teams, had tried and failed to meet the NSW Government’s Fit for the Future guidelines.
Most telling was the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal’s refusal in May 2016 to fully grant the council’s request for the special rates variation rate rise it needed to fund its Fit for the Future measures.
IPART panned the council’s SRV request saying it had not justified the need for the rate rise or adequately consulted with ratepayers about it.
The failure resulted in another 10 months of turmoil, which included the resignation of Mr Lindsay’s predecessor.
Being thrust into the comparative limelight of the general manager’s position has not been easy for a person instinctively happier dealing with money matters behind the scenes.
Prior to the 2004 council amalgamation he was responsible for the Maclean Shire Council finances and took over that role at the new Clarence Valley Council.
Mr Lindsay’s background in finance has been valuable as he and the council staff charted their way to being Fit for the Future.
Set a target of improving the council’s bottom line by about $15 million, he was able to to split the difference between revenue raising and funding cuts, but both had the potential to create disunity.
A key plank of the cost savings was cutting the equivalent of 25 full-time jobs from the council’s staff, saving around $7.5 million and the revenue raising required a special rates variation raising nearly $8 million.
For this process to succeed Mr Lindsay recognised he had to let his colleagues and the community know exactly what sacrifices they needed to make.
Within the council he established regular staff meetings where staff were kept up to date with the process.
In the community Mr Lindsay became a regular sight at community functions, always willing to talk openly about what the council has tried to achieve.
It hasn’t been a fairytale.
Clarence Valley Council still cops plenty of flak from ratepayers, but there are signs the tide has turned, with many noting Mr Lindsay’s openness and transparency as a key part of the change.
Away from work Mr Lindsay is never happier than being on a footy field.
These days the former North Sydney Bear’s field time is as a referee when the Yamba Eagles and Clarence Coast Magpies junior teams are running around on a Saturday morning.
His contributions there have not gone unnoticed, just recently picking up the Ernie Muller Award for his role in developing junior rugby league.