Cale Dendle is Director of Corporate and Community Services at Gladstone Regional Council. He has also served as a Director for LG Professionals Australia for the last three and a half years. I spoke to him at our recent Canberra Showcase where our Board met with representatives of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, other local government CEOs, and academics from the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis to discuss the Federal Government's City Deals policy.
When I asked Cale what made him decide to join a local government, I got what may well be typical of a Cale response; straight-forward, and a little self-depreciating. ‘I needed a job to support my part-time studies and I wanted an admin job at Central Queensland University, but they chose someone else. I got into local government – as a junior rates clerk – because Rockhampton City Council accepted my application. That was in 1991. Like many young people, I didn't realise the opportunities local government presented until I was working inside the machine.’
And then? ‘Over the next few years I was lucky enough to have a number of rotational opportunities, and joined the Administration Department in 1995. That was about the time I first got involved with LGMA, but it wasn’t till I’d had several other positions, a stint of overseas travel and our second child, who was born in 2001, that I really got serious about my career.’
‘One thing I’ve got right for most of the time I’ve been in local government is that I always take opportunities for professional development. Recently I attended the LGMA Queensland Annual Conference in September and participated actively in variety of offerings. I believe that, as a peak professional body, we should be seriously considering a return to a form of professional development scheme – perhaps along the lines of the International City Managers' Association (USA) "voluntary credentialing scheme" as an important first step in that direction.’
‘I’ve also done the Management Challenge – in the late 1990s – and helped stage Rural Management Challenges in different Queensland locations in the early 2000's. I am a strong advocate of the unrivalled professional development experience that the Management Challenge provides local government professionals.’
As Cale is to finishing up with the LG Professionals Board soon, I asked him, what he thought was the most important topic covered by the board during his time? ‘I'd like to think (and this is probably for others to judge) that the board (led by Mark Ferguson, Mark Withers, Shayne Silcox and now Andrew Wardlaw) has done an incredible amount of work to re-invent what is now known as LG Professionals Australia. And it's so much more than just a new name and logo. Some very difficult decisions about relationships with Federation partners, changes in management, financial stability, international and domestic relationships and National office presence in Canberra have all played a part in bringing the organisation into a new era of leadership in the development of local government professionals across the country.’
How useful is it for senior people in local government (both elected and professional) to establish networks beyond their own councils? ‘As in any profession or ‘people business’, managers get things done through other people. Often this is via your staff, but just as often it is by relying on well-developed relationships through your networks. I regularly tell people that the real value of the LG Professionals Australia membership is the opportunity to develop your networks with like-minded colleagues.’
Given the changing political environment, increasing need for governance and low levels of trust in politician, I asked Cale how he saw local government and the local government sector contributing to the national agenda. ‘I hope that the Federal Government gets a proper opportunity to really explore the paper on the future of the Australian Federation assembled by LG Professionals Australia. Not only are we insisting that local government stop bleating on about more government hand-outs to survive, we are making a real case for local government being the delivery mechanism for many government projects and services across this broad land. Local government is already engaged with its communities, has the local intelligence and expertise and is a proven (and de-centralised) performer in so many ways.’
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now? 'I plan to be CEO of a provincial Council in Queensland, balancing work with travel and enjoying time with our three adult children. I also hope that there will be time for continued work in company directorship, with LGMA/LG Professionals Australia and with my current interests in rugby/league administration and coaching. Who knows . . .?'
Cale will be at the 2017 LG Professionals Australia National Congress. Make sure you say hi!
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- But, when it comes to creating a culture, what leaders do is much more important than what they might say
- Sometimes, real leadership means knowing when to follow others
- Whatever the outcome of the last thing, focus on doing the next thing well
- Make decisions; take good advice and undertake your processes, but at the end of the day leaders make decision