When David Farmer started working for Wollongong City Council as general manager almost eight years ago, he was presented with one mighty challenge. The organisation was in the midst of a major ICAC inquiry into development issues. While David wasnt involved in any of the allegations, he was the one who had to take the organisation through the public hearing and deal with the after-effects. The issues preceded my tenure, but the public inquiry was on my watch, David explains. I had to handle that whole situation, which was quite extraordinary and perhaps the most substantial political scandal in New South Wales for a decade or so. Keeping the organisation together and the morale of the staff up, while trying to re-earn the trust of the community, was an intense and demanding process.
The elected council members were subsequently dismissed and administrators were appointed. While it was a difficult time for all involved, David worked tirelessly to slowly repair the councils reputation. Every day, you had to go out there and rebuild that trust with the community. We have achieved a lot in that regard over the past eight years and were seeing the results of this in our biennial community survey. We did one straight after that ICAC inquiry in 2008 and we had a really low score in terms of community perception of our organisation and its performance. However, since then we have had three surveys in a row and each of those has had record high scores.