McGrath starts tough role

BRENDAN McGrath steps into Wangaratta’s hottest seat today when he becomes the permanent chief executive officer of a council that created headlines for all the wrong reasons last year.

The city hasn’t had a full-time chief executive since a staff meeting on May 9 last year when his predecessor, Doug Sharp, confirmed he and other senior staff members were taking stress-related leave from their posts.

They never returned.

Kelvin Spiller has been in the acting chief executive position since June, but he will handover to his full-time replacement tomorrow and leave.

Mr McGrath has joined Wangaratta from neighbouring Indigo Shire and starts the job with a clear mandate to staff.

“I think the key message to everyone is we’ve got to keep our eyes forward,” he said yesterday.

“There is no point in continuously looking behind at what has happened.”

Mr McGrath was appointed Wangaratta chief executive in early December last year — a month after a three-member team of administrators led by Ailsa Fox began in their roles.

The 42-year-old follows a recent tradition of young chiefs at Wangaratta set by Graeme Emonson and Justin Hanney, before Mr Sharp replaced the latter in early 2006.

There has been a simple instruction to Mr McGrath from administrators, who are in place until the 2016 council elections.

“They want to get the message out there that the municipality is open for business,” he said.

“We’ve got a lot of important priorities that need to be delivered.

“We are focusing on re-engaging with the community and getting on with delivering on them.”

Mr McGrath has economic development and job creation high on his priorities with their importance highlighted by a specific director appointment.

He said Wangaratta had to play to its strengths in attracting investment.

“Agribusiness presents some pretty big opportunities,” he said.

“We’ve got to work with the rural sector and make the most of the pretty diverse climate and conditions we have.”

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