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From Wollongong to Ipswich: Council announces new CEO

Ipswich City Council today announced its new CEO will be David Farmer.

Mr Farmer will draw from more than 20 years of experience at the helm of council administration, including his most recent role as general manager of Wollongong City Council where he has worked with administrators and restored democratic governance.

Wollongong Council was dismissed after a public hearing in 2008.

“There are definitely some similarities in Ipswich, most importantly the need to restore public confidence and trust,” Mr Farmer said.

“I wanted a role where I could bring my skills to bear on something significant. The combination of governance and growth issues in Ipswich present that challenge. The success of Ipswich City Council over the next few years is critical to the development of South East Queensland and also to the perception of Local Government to the Queensland public.

“If I am to look back at my 11 years at Wollongong, there are some key projects I’m particularly proud of – the Blue Mile, a city foreshore project similar to the Cairns Esplanade which I also worked on, and Grand Pacific Walk are two of them.

“But the last three community surveys show satisfaction at all-time highs, which is exactly where we want to head in Ipswich with a measured approach which leads to best-practice outcomes.”

In Wollongong, Mr Farmer saw the commencement of Fowler’s Rd Bridge, a $90 million project which began after 30 years of discussion. 

“It’s probably too soon to start talking about projects in detail, however I’m proud that my experience is in councils of a similar size. Wollongong has a very proud workforce of more than 1000 staff, and Cairns was also a progressive council,” he said.

“Cairns, Wollongong and Ipswich have a rich working class history, and are in the process of spruiking their post-industrial growth credentials. That means it’s an exciting time, and I’m well aware that Ipswich is one of the country’s fastest-growing cities.”

Of his time in Wollongong, Mr Farmer said: “I had a rocky start but also a deeply satisfying journey at Wollongong over the past decade or so. Ultimately success is a function of a team effort, and would like to pay my respects to the Councillors I have worked with over the period and also to thank the thousand plus staff at Council who make it happen every day.

“Restoring the Council’s finances took almost a decade, but has meant that we can now adequately care for the assets the community uses and loves. We have tripled our capital program since I arrived and that has meant we have been able to invest in long neglected assets such as roads, footpaths, community building and pools.”

Interim administrator Greg Chemello said Ipswich did not have the financial hardship issues which faced Wollongong. However, he said Mr Farmer’s experience would be of utmost value when defining, implementing and managing strict governance policies and procedures needed for Ipswich City Council to restore community trust.

“We’re working very hard to put in systems and structures which will help generate confidence in councils elected beyond 2020,” Mr Chemello said.

“And I am confident David Farmer is the right man to drive this council into the next decade.”

Mr Chemello thanked the selection panel of Steve Greenwood (Interim Management Committee), Professor Geraldine Mackenzie (University of Southern Queensland vice-chancellor), Gary Kellar (local government consultant) and Dr Nikola Stepanov (Queensland Integrity Commissioner) for their diligent work in shortlisting, interviewing, assessing and unanimously agreeing to the appointment of David Farmer as council’s new CEO.

Mr Chemello said he had been impressed by the commitment of more than 1200 staff within council who are dedicated to their roles, hell-bent on making Ipswich a more liveable city as it grows as fast as any city in Australia.

“I can’t thank staff enough for the support they are giving me as we implement Vision2020, and I’m sure they’ll welcome someone of David’s calibre and experience with exactly the same enthusiasm,” Mr Chemello said.

“The city is moving forward at a rate of knots. And today’s announcement is another critical cog in the wheel of progress for Ipswich.”

Mr Farmer’s first day at Ipswich City Council will be Monday February 4.

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