Member - Cian Middleton, Next Gen Member

Director Customer, Corporate Services & Economy, Parkes Shire Council

Tell us about your role at Parkes Shire Council

I've recently joined Parkes Shire in a newly created role as Director Customer, Corporate Services and Economy, which brings together a diverse range of functions, including the traditional corporate services such as governance, communications, human resources and ICT, as well as more externally focused parts of the business such as tourism and destination marketing, economic development, investment attraction, and major events - including the iconic Elvis Festival!

Can you tell us about some of your current projects which you are particularly excited about?

Parkes is absolutely booming and we're seeing unprecedented levels of investment in the area due to projects such as the Special Activation Precinct and Inland Rail. One of my key projects is to lead a liveability strategy piece to really map out how we can better promote Parkes Shire to new residents, to ensure that we're attracting more people to settle down here, and critically, retaining them - particularly the skilled and specialist workers we need to meet gaps in the local labour market. I think there's plenty of other regional councils going through this same process at the moment, especially those in areas like the Central West, which has benefited from the COVID treechange.

Developing our new Integrated Planning and Reporting framework is another priority, and the piece that that really excites me is our Workforce Management Plan. With the "Great Resignation" well and truly upon us, I think there's some opportunities for regional councils to explore how willing they are to adjust their workforce settings to attract and retain their staff, particularly those in hard-to-fill specialist and professional roles.

What is the most challenging part of your role?

The Customer, Corporate Services and Economy department is newly created here at Parkes Shire, and the functional portfolio is so broad, so bringing together a group of existing teams into the one department while also getting across all the different parts of the business and how it operates has been challenging. It's also a really busy time to be joining the organisation - we're inducting a new Council, we're mid-way through the development of our new IP&R framework, and the Elvis Festival was deferred to April, so it's almost like a perfect storm of competing priorities for me as Director!

Why did you decide to work in local government?

Believe it or not, my love for all things local government actually began when I was in high school! I was president of Whitsunday Regional Council's Youth Affairs Committee, and - as a particularly confident and ambitious young man - decided to tell the then Mayor exactly what I thought of him and the job he was doing. He suggested if I wasn't impressed with his performance, to support a different candidate at the next elections - once I'd turned 18 and could actually vote in the elections, that was.

Come 2012, I decided to do just that. Whitsunday Regional Council had a change of Mayor, and I ended up joining her team as her media adviser while I studied my law degree remotely. It wasn't until I moved into a management role in 2015 that I realised that local government could provide me with a challenging and rewarding career.

One of the real selling points of working in local government is that you've got plenty of opportunities to work in different fields, learn new skills and hone your craft. Since relocating back to NSW, I've held different roles spanning communications, community engagement, governance and risk management - that's not necessarily something you'd have if you worked in the State or Federal sectors, and I think it provides us with a unique selling point in the current market.

When you are not working, what do you enjoy about living in Parkes?

I'm really enjoying living in Parkes, it's the perfect size - large enough to have a Woolies, Coles and Aldi, but too small for traffic lights! There's a really strong sense of community spirit, and there's lots going on and plenty of opportunities to get involved, so there always seems to be something happening on the weekend. We're also right next door to Orange and Dubbo, which are both great weekend destinations, so I'm making sure to get out and about and exploring the region while the weather is still decent!

Why did you join LG Professionals, NSW?

Back in 2018, I attended the Governance Intensive Residential Course, which was amazing: the program covered off on every topic you could think of; the sessions were practical and focused on "real life" governance situations; and learning from the likes of Karen Litchfield, Todd Hopwood and Shane Sullivan - the sector's "governance gurus" - was a really valuable experience. I think I signed up as a member of LG Professionals, NSW as soon as I got back to the office!

Membership provides plenty of opportunities, not just to attend conferences and events and undertake training, but also to get involved in various network executive committees and contribute to policy development, course design and advocacy initiatives. The old adage of "you get out what you put in" rings true.

I've really enjoyed getting involved in the association, particularly though the Governance Network Executive, and forging some strong friendships along the way. When you work in a field like governance this side of the Great Divide, you're often working in a team of one - so being able to connect with peers from other councils and draw on their expertise to troubleshoot thorny problems that crop up is priceless.


Interested in joining LG Professionals, NSW? Join here.