Sunshine Coast Council's new CEO Emma Thomas.
Sunshine Coast Council's new CEO Emma Thomas.

New council CEO pledges ‘genuine, authentic’ consultation

The woman tasked with leading the next era of local government in the region says she wants to embrace the Coast's diversity to strengthen its future.

New Sunshine Coast Council CEO Emma Thomas said she acknowledged there were differing views in the region, particularly about the future, and that diversity had to be harnessed.

"I value diversity very, very much," she said.

"We should be stronger for our diversity."

Council appoints new leader

The "community of communities" has long grappled with the best way to plan for the future, particularly with forecast population growth and its approach to development.

Ms Thomas said the best thing for the region was to try to bring those "different ways of thinking together".

Keen cyclist Emma Thomas, pictured with her husband, has been appointed as Sunshine Coast Council's new CEO.
Keen cyclist Emma Thomas, pictured with her husband, has been appointed as Sunshine Coast Council's new CEO.

She said the Sunshine Coast was shaping as a "very attractive" prospect for people as coronavirus restrictions lifted and she expected more new faces to call the region home.

She said the council's aim was to harness all the diverse thinking to strike the right balance for the Coast.

"One doesn't have to come at the expense of the other," Ms Thomas said.

The keen cyclist and former Boeing executive said the council had some very important documents to finalise in the coming years.

Incoming council CEO reveals vision, plans and priorities

She said the new planning scheme and draft coastal hazard adaptation strategy loomed as critical documents, while further discussions were to be held over the future of transportation.

"Those are all really important," Ms Thomas said.

She said she wanted to finalise a lot of that consultation, and look at the context of all council's plans and strategies to ensure the Coast remained "future-ready".

Ms Thomas said consultation needed to be "genuine and authentic", as the organisation worked on trust, and the community needed to have faith in the engagement process.

"There's lots of different ways that people can engage now," she said.

She said her style of leadership had always been values-based and she valued her team "very, very much".

Covid has meant plenty of adaptations for council, not least of which was running council meetings in a socially-distanced, tech-led format.
Covid has meant plenty of adaptations for council, not least of which was running council meetings in a socially-distanced, tech-led format.

Ms Thomas said she would be focused on the psychological and physical safety of people within council and said she was heavily focused on values, behaviours and respect.

She said a recent drain of some executive talent to neighbouring Moreton Bay Regional Council would still benefit the region and she was excited about the opportunity to attract other talents to the Coast, saying it was a fantastic place to work.

Ms Thomas said the role of the council executive was to deliver for councillors as they brought together their strategies and visions for the region.

"They are the elected officials," she said.

Ex-councillor calls for CEO report to go public

Ms Thomas said she was accountable for the administrative and bureaucratic arms of the organisation, and the councillors and mayor were "highly accountable to the community" for the decisions they made.

"We are a team," she said, but encouraged anyone confused about where responsibilities lay to come to the CEO's office.

Mayor Mark Jamieson and councillors will work with Ms Thomas, who was selected out of 126 candidates who applied for the role. Picture: Patrick Woods
Mayor Mark Jamieson and councillors will work with Ms Thomas, who was selected out of 126 candidates who applied for the role. Picture: Patrick Woods

She said she appreciated the way in which councillors, the mayor and council staff worked together and were prepared to have frank conversations.

She said infrastructure was poised to play a vital role in the Coast's pandemic recovery and she expected the region's major project rollout to continue.

The woman who helped deliver light rail in Canberra said her council would always be accountable for good fiscal management and be focused on a community that thrived and was prosperous in the future.

Ms Thomas said she had nothing else to add about the status of a report into allegations of bullying within the organisation made during the tenure of her predecessor, Michael Whittaker, who resigned suddenly due to ill health in February.

Former Sunshine Coast Council CEO Michael Whittaker. Picture: Greg Gardner Photography
Former Sunshine Coast Council CEO Michael Whittaker. Picture: Greg Gardner Photography

She said it had been dealt with, and as Mayor Mark Jamieson explained previously, it was important to follow rules and guidelines about the release of public interest disclosure matters, to ensure protection of whistleblowers.

Ms Thomas was selected out of a field of 126 applicants to lead the council for the next five years on a $485,000 a year contract.