The Huon Valley Council has announced that Emilio Reale has had his contract as general manager renewed for five years, commencing March this year.
Huon Valley Mayor Bec Enders said, “Mr Reale had received strong and positive feedback for his leadership in council through peer and councillor review.
“The consistent feedback supported Mr Reale securing a five-year contract.
“For the first time, key performance indicators (KPIs) targets and stretch targets were introduced.”
The agreed KPIs, developed by the General Manager Performance Review Committee and the general manager, include significant areas of responsibility such as financial sustainability, delivering projects of community significance, customer service experience, economy, planning, health and wellbeing of workforce, capital projects, grant funds and cost control.
Mr Reale was initially appointed as HVC general manager for a period of three years (with an option to extend three years) by a panel, which included former commissioner Adriana Taylor.
The pair had worked at Glenorchy City Council together for around 10 years, and Mr Reale had also worked at both Kingborough and Huon Valley Councils prior to securing his first general manager role at Huon Valley in March 2017.
Coming into the job less than six months after the previous council had been dismissed following the Board of Inquiry, Mr Reale said at the time that he hoped to usher in a period of stability, make changes that were needed to suit the community of today, and head up an efficient and well-functioning council.
He was facing vacancies in a number of senior positions and immediately implemented a restructure of the leadership team.
Upon reflection of the last three years, Mr Reale said, “I believe that new structure has worked well and has kept the council functioning efficiently and is servicing the community appropriately.”
It hasn’t been all smooth sailing though, with a major flood to deal with in 2018, the Riveaux Road bushfire in 2019 and now the COVID-19 pandemic and Mr Reale says that he is hoping for a disaster free five years ahead of him.
Mr Reale oversaw the implementation of the 2016 Board of Inquiry recommendations and finalisation of the Ministerial Directions, and says that getting those signed off in June 2019 was a major milestone of the last three years, with all the recommendations implemented, including several new policies and a new community engagement framework.
After working with the very experienced former mayor and legislative councillor, Adriana Taylor, for more than a year and a half, the local government elections resulted in a HVC with eight inexperienced councillors, including a new mayor and deputy mayor.
“We had a very extensive induction programme and provided help and guidance along the way for especially the first 12 months, but, even now, we might encounter new things that we still have to work together on.
“But because we’ve got a good council, a good cross section, they’ve been good to work with and I’ve been happy to support them in their decision making.
“I think it’s been a period of building confidence, but I believe that confidence is there now and there is a good level of understanding and support for each other, and I think there is more confidence in having open discussions and debates, I think they’ve done a good job, given the circumstances.”
Mr Reale said that he is proud of the way that the HVC dealt with the Riveaux Road bushfire emergency last year and some of the planning from that time has been useful in dealing with COVID-19.
“Our emergency management plans helped guide the whole response, we’ve got good plans and they certainly got put into practice and exercised during the bushfires, and they proved to work well,” said Mr Reale.
“And anything that didn’t, we learnt out of that and modified our plan so that next time we won’t have those issues.
“We’ve got a business continuity plan that helps us continue running the business during periods of disaster or pandemic, and a lot of components out of the emergency management plan are applicable during this period as well.”
Mr Reale is confident that HVC’s strong financial position over the years will put it in good stead to get through the COVID-19 recovery in a good position, but ratepayers should expect several years of deficit budgets.
“We’ve got cash in the bank, we’re debt free, we’ve still got good sources of revenue from our fees and charges from our services, and, even though we’ve got a zero per cent rate rise, we’ve still got a good rate base.
“I’m confident we will come out the other end still financially strong,” he said.
The HVC secured funding to complete the Huonville Main Drain infrastructure project during the 2018 State Government election campaign and Mr Reale said that, with that project nearing completion, he is confident that the major subdivision in Huonville will go ahead.
He said that the Channel Highway bypass remains the number one priority on the HVC’s infrastructure wish list, with $7.5 million toward the project secured in 2018 and a traffic study nearing completion for presentation to the Department of State Growth.
“Hopefully, over the next 12 months, we might be successful in securing some additional funding, but I think we have to realise that state and federal government financial situations have changed, but there may be some opportunities for infrastructure grant funding that may be released soon,” said Mr Reale.
Mr Reale also oversaw the review of the low-cost campsites in Franklin, Shipwrights Point and Geeveston, the failed bid to establish a seasonal worker accommodation trial at Grove and the purchase of the old Blockbuster Video store building to establish the visitor information centre in Huonville.
Other ongoing projects include the Huon River shared pathway, the upgrade of the marine precinct in North Franklin, the Ranelagh Recreation Ground Master Plan and the controversial potential sale of the Cygnet Medical Centre (an update on which is expected soon).
Mr Reale will not be seeking any salary increase for 2020/21 and the General Manager Performance Review Committee is now working with him to remodel the agreed KPIs so they are more agile and responsive in a COVID-19 economic operating environment.
The Committee meets monthly.
They meet with the general manager quarterly and report back to the HVC in closed session of council.