CEO ‘is the glue that binds’ council

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Five questions with Suzette van Aswegen, the Mackenzie District Council’s new chief executive officer.

Q. What is the career or life path that has brought you to the Mackenzie district?

A passion to serve local communities, in particular small rural communities, is the reason for following a career in local government and that is also what lured me to the Mackenzie district – a small rural local community with exciting growth prospects in a beautiful natural setting with iconic landscapes. I have 29 years’ experience in local government with more than a decade at executive level. Before I joined the Mackenzie team I worked in Western Australia for 11 and a-half years and before that I was employed by the Kaikoura District Council in New Zealand. We immigrated from South Africa to New Zealand in 1999.

Q. How would you describe the role of chief executive officer?

In my view the chief executive officer’s role is to give effect to the council’s strategic objectives and policies through administration. This is done by aligning the organisation with those agreed objectives and by finding the most appropriate business model to give effect to it. The CEO is the main adviser to the council and is responsible for finding a balance between the many different and often conflicting views, opinions, needs and challenges in order to achieve suitable outcomes for the greater good of the community. The CEO is the glue that binds the organisation together and is the conduit between staff and the council.

Q. What would you like to achieve in this role?

My goals and performance measures will be set collaboratively with council once I have taken up the role. I am very much looking forward to working closely and constructively with the council, staff and stakeholders to achieve agreed objectives and outcomes. My main focus will be on building positive and productive working relationships and achieving excellence in customer service.

Q. You’re possibly the first woman to be appointed chief executive of a district council in South Canterbury. Have you had any feedback on that?

No. I haven’t realised this to be the case and although I have not had any specific feedback in this regard, I am grateful that feedback in general has been tremendously positive.

Q. What do you see as the challenges facing the Mackenzie District Council in the coming years?

I would say the Mackenzie District Council faces the following challenges, which could be turned into opportunities:

1. Understanding the uniqueness of the growth we are experiencing in the Mackenzie district and finding innovative solutions and funding mechanisms to manage the growth.

2. Adapting to an ever-changing legal and political environment with increased compliance cost.

3. Delivering affordable levels of service and finding balanced and innovative solutions to the conflicting needs of the community.