NEWLY-appointed Gunnedah Shire Council general manager Eric Groth has pledged to improve relations between the council and the community.
Mr Groth, who had been acting in the role since the shock departure of Robert Campbell earlier in the year, was confirmed on Wednesday after a thorough recruitment process.
The 42-year-old said he was “thrilled” to learn of his appointment and looked forward to the prospect of steering the shire through the challenges ahead.
“Having been born in Gunnedah and having worked in local government for just over 15 years, it’s great to reach the pinnacle of the organisation in my hometown,” he said.
Mr Groth began his professional career as an accountant before moving into local government, serving councils in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania.
Three years ago Mr Groth and his partner Joy Martin returned to Gunnedah, where he had previously worked at the council, to become director of community and corporate services.
He was elevated to acting general manager in the wake of a review by consultants Blackadder Associates that identified serious shortcomings in the council’s organisational structure.
Mr Groth said he would continue to work through and implement the recommendations contained in the report.
“Communication is always a major challenge,” he said. “We need to make sure that we build some better relationships with the community. But if you take on a role like this, you need to forget about trying to be popular and do what you believe is right – guided by the elected members.”
Mr Groth said he was determined to ensure the council continued to build on its impressive financial record.
“We are fortunate that we’re a very sound council, financially, and we’ve had approval for a special rate variation commencing this year, which will see us remain a sound financial council.
“We need to make sure that businesses and developers know we’re open for business, but also balance that with our responsibilities to protect the very same community ... (and ) make sure that we don’t make a short-sighted grab for short-term dollars at the cost of longer-term agricultural dollars.”
Gunnedah mayor Owen Hasler said the council was delighted with the appointment.
“Eric is very focused and one of his referees even described him as a ‘workaholic’, so he’s very committed,” he said.
“He’s a team player and he’s very keen to improve the communication within the organisation, and also outside the organisation, and consulting with the community.”