John Flannery, PSM, Fellow
In 2018 John will celebrate 55 years as a member. He became a member in 1963 and since then has played an active part in local government in NSW even past his retirement from the sector in 2000 where he passed on the reigns of General Manager at Singleton Shire Council.
What was your first job in local government and why did you get into a career in local government?
I commenced my local government career as a junior clerk in the Cumberland County Council (CCC) offices in Kent Street, Sydney, where I came under the influence and wise counsel of my first employer and mentor, the then Deputy County Clerk, Dorcen Bolin; later Town Clerk at Woollahra and President of the Town Clerk’s Society of NSW. My uncle, Tony Morgan, worked at CCC and he first sparked my interest in local government so when I had to leave school at an early age I applied for jobs at Cumberland County Council and at Sydney County Council (then operating out of the pre-restored Queen Victoria Building where I was interviewed). I was offered both jobs but decided to accept the CCC mainly because I thought a small organisation would offer me more variety of work. Such was the innocence of youth but I have never regretted that decision. After a couple of years at CCC, which was the precursor of the State Department of Planning, I was making progress with my studies for the Local Government Clerk’s Certificate and obtained a position in the Rates Department of Marrickville Municipal Council at Petersham Town Hall, where my real local government career began.
What is the experience or achievement you are most proud of during your time working in Local Government?
At the age of 24 I was appointed Town Clerk at Bombala where I gained invaluable experience within a small organisation and after 7 years was appointed Town Clerk at Singleton at the start of the Hunter Valley resources boom in 1971. In 1976, I was appointed Shire Clerk of the amalgamated Singleton Shire Council and retired as General Manager in 2000 at the age of 60.
I was very fortunate to work in communities that experienced growth and development during my time of employment. Bombala was one of the smallest councils to win the AR Bluett Memorial Award in 1968 and Singleton achieved the same feat in 1977; they were busy and interesting times for me.
I was particularly proud of the fact that to the best of my ability I had given my employers conscientious and loyal service over 45 years and was able to leave at a time of my choosing and at a time in my life where I could actively pursue other opportunities and test myself in different areas of work and community service. I also knew I had left Singleton Council with an outstanding and motivated management team that I had nurtured and supported.
How did your membership with LG Professionals, NSW support you during your career and is it supporting you in anyway after retirement?
I served on the Board of the Institute of Municipal Management (the
predecessor of LG Professionals) from 1985 to 1993, including two years as your
President in the lead up to enactment of the 1993 Local Government Act and will
never forget the standing ovation I received when I handed over the presidency
at the conclusion of the 1992 conference. In 1992, I took Garry Payne, DG of
the Local Government Department and John Turner MP representing the Minister,
on a study tour to California to encourage them to adopt the strong city
manager system in NSW. I was also involved with colleague Terry Barnes and
Kevin O’Rourke from California in setting up the California – NSW manager exchange
program which still operates today. I was awarded the Public Service Medal in
the Australia Day Honors in 1993.
What sort of things are you doing to remain engaged with the sector?
After retirement from local government in 2000 I had a successful career in consulting to local government, business and industry for over 15 years. My work has been varied and interesting, particularly the significant projects I have worked on in the coal mining industry. I was also privileged to serve local government in an honorary role from 2001 to 2011 as a Trustee judging the AR Bluett Memorial Award, including 8 years as Chairman of the Trust. I keep in touch with close friends from my local government days, particularly the people I worked with on the IMM Board (too many to mention individually), and follow with interest the Golden Oldies gossip.
What is your best piece of advice to all young professionals looking to build their career in Local Government?
I joined the Town Clerk’s Society in 1962 immediately after gaining my qualifications. In addition to Dorcen Bolin I was mentored by other senior leaders, in particular Ron Blackadder, father of Steve and a former Bombala Town Clerk and National President. Ron’s most memorable advice to me as I struggled to secure a move from Bombala was “never forget you are a Town Clerk, John, and don’t step backwards in your career.”
I would encourage young professionals to maintain their involvement in their professional organisation; it is an important and enduring component of your professional life. It is where you can express yourself among colleagues, pick up ideas and skills through the many overlapping networks that operate in the industry and make friends for life.