More than four decades of service to the people of Ipswich will come to a close when Mark Denman calls time on his career at council later this month.
Mr Denman, 60, is among council’s longest serving employees, having started work with the organisation a year out of high school in 1976.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left school, but I’d had enough of study at that time,” he said.
“My parents were part-owners of Gillece’s Seafoods in Limestone Street. Some of the council managers would come down for their lunch and one day my father asked if there were any available positions as I was looking for employment.
“One manager indicated there were positions being advertised and that I should apply. I was successful in gaining a position in the town clerk’s office.”
Mr Denman started in an administrative role, providing support to the then town clerk – better known these days as the chief executive officer.
In 1982 the time had come for a new challenge, which presented itself in the form of a position in the council’s town planning department.
Mr Denman joined what was then a six person team – it now has about 100 employees – and undertook compliance tasks and assessment of minor town planning applications.
“I started a planning degree but decided after about six months that it wasn’t for me,” he said.
Instead, Mr Denman kept working mostly on compliance matters until 1998 when, in a move to push the department forward, a role was created to oversee systems and the integration of technology into its operations.
It was the perfect role for Mr Denman, a self-confessed early adopter of new technology, and one he has excelled in ever since, today heading up a team of four as Business Support Manager.
“One of my big passions is technology and how it can be integrated into business process to improve efficiency,” he said.
“When there is new technology that can help the department improve efficiency I want to grab it and run with it to explore the possibilities.”
Mr Denman’s team is crucial to how council’s planning and development department operates, overseeing its budget, reporting, business systems, web portals such as PD Online and much more.
In recent years as Ipswich emerged as one of the fastest growing regions in the state, the workload for council’s planning and development team has also soared.
Mr Denman said he took great satisfaction from knowing the systems he helped put in place allowed the department to remain at the top of its game.
“We have seen a big increase in the number of applications being made and it’s been important to make sure we have efficient systems in place so we can handle the city’s expansion,” he said.
“I get a real buzz from taking business knowledge and embedding technology, to then get a major benefit for the business and in turn maximising the return on the dollar for ratepayers.
“One of the biggest things I’ve been involved with from a technology point of view is transitioning the department to becoming a paperless office.
“Planning and development was the first department in council to move entirely to using digital signatures. That has had significant benefits not least of all in cutting printing costs and in time efficiency.”
Mr Denman said Ipswich City Council had a long-standing approach of embracing new technology.
“Ipswich was the first local government in Australia to set up its own internet service provider, Global Info-Links.
“One of the reasons we’ve been able to achieve so much is because council has been a leader in that space.
“Council hasn’t been afraid to step in and embrace new technology, which I think is very important because it moves so fast and there are plenty of examples of organisations not willing to embrace technology and being left behind.”
Mr Denman said while he would miss his colleagues, who are like family to him, the time was right to retire.
So what does the future hold?
He plans to spend more time with wife Lindsey, who he met at council and has been married to for 35 years.
As well as spending more time with his grandchildren, Mark is looking forward to spending more time in the garden, taking trips to the beach, keeping fit and continuing to enjoy overseas travel, cruising and seeing more of Australia.
Having been born and bred in Ipswich, Mr Denman will also be watching with interest how the city develops in the years ahead.
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