NEWLY-appointed South Gippsland Shire Council chief executive Kerryn Ellis plans to listen and ask lots of questions in her early days in the role.
Ms Ellis takes the reins on Tuesday, March 10 following a stint as the Director Corporate Services at Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC).
She told the Sentinel-Times her first priorities would be meeting local people and building her understanding of local issues and opportunities.
She said was excited by the “opportunity to make a contribution to the South Gippsland community and broader region, and build the culture, capability and good governance of the organisation”.
“I will also be keen to meet the South Gippsland council staff and understand how the organisation works and what our opportunities are,” Ms Ellis said.
“In my early period I will be listening and asking lots of questions to learn about the community and priority issues, and establishing a good, collaborative working relationship with stakeholders, businesses and community groups.”
Ms Ellis, who holds a Bachelor of Arts, a Master of Commerce and a Graduate Diploma of Public Policy and Management, and has local government experience with the cities of Greater Bendigo, Knox, Melbourne and Bayside, said she was also keen to work closely with the administrators to understand early priorities and to start addressing these.
She described her management style as “visionary, collaborative and enabling”.
Ms Ellis said she was fortunate to have visited the South Gippsland area frequently before applying for the role as she has family living locally, including her parents who live on Phillip Island.
“It is an area that I love, and I have enjoying spending time in and watching the area grow and develop,” she said.
However, she is not immediately planning to live in the municipality.
“As I am fortunate to have family living locally, my first priority will be to spend as much time as I can in the area and get to know it, and then consider where I will base myself in the longer term.”
Asked what she would like the people of South Gippsland to know about her as a person, Ms Ellis said, “That I am very excited and humbled to have the opportunity to lead the organisation, and really looking forward to the challenge of getting to know and work closely with the staff and community.”
She is also an avid sport fan and apologised, tongue-in-cheek, for being a Collingwood supporter. She added she enjoyed gardening, reading and movies in her spare time.
South Gippsland Shire Council resolved to appoint Ms Ellis to the role for the next five years at a special meeting last week.
Council’s chair administrator, Julie Eisenbise said that Ms Ellis was the stand-out candidate from a field of 46.
“Kerryn’s appointment is a significant milestone for South Gippsland Shire Council. It is likely that we will make no bigger decision in our time as Administrators,” Ms Eisenbise said.
“We have worked diligently to ensure that we chose the best candidate to lead the organisation. Kerryn is that person.”
Acting chief executive Bryan Sword applied for the role and will now return to his substantive role as Director Development Services.

Community response
The response to the announcement of Ms Ellis’s appointment on council’s Facebook page was largely positive with most commenters simply congratulating and welcoming her.
Other comments included:
Former councillor Matt Sherry: “Wonder how much this CEO is going to cost us and weather (sic) she lives in our shire.”
Asher Coleman: “Welcome to south Gippsland. As CEO I hope you’ll take the effects of climate change on our beautiful corner of the country seriously.”
Aaron Gilbertson: “This actually seems like a very good hire.”
Alison Taylor: “Welcome! I look forward to seeing your positive changes to council.”
Samantha Traeger: “Warmest wishes Kerryn. I believe that to fully appreciate and represent the community, you need to be living with the people and experiencing all the area has to offer. To know exactly what it is you’re looking after. These things can’t be achieved from behind a desk or a long commute. We welcome you and your family to our beautiful shire and pray your presence will afford us the security we need, now and into the future.”
Tony Griggs: “Keep rates rises to no more than CPI, provide core services (roads, parks, rubbish etc) and cut out the fat in upper mgt (sic) at council. No show pony stuff. Produce deliverables and you may earn my respect as a ratepayer.”