Stewart to sign off

By David Kavanagh | posted on January 10, 2020

SHIRE of Plantagenet Chief Executive Officer Rob Stewart will be resigning later this year after nearly two decades in the top job.

The 66-year-old stepped into the position on July 2, 2001 after having helmed his own software development company and served as CEO of the Town of Claremont in Perth.

Mr Stewart spoke with the Weekender about his time working for the Shire, a long and multifaceted journey he described as an “unusual … rich and satisfying professional experience”.

“I am genuinely sad to be leaving Plantagenet,” he said.

“Over the past 19 years, the council, council staff and community have all been very proactive and supportive.

“Everything that has been achieved has been achieved in an environment of mutual support and trust and the council continues to plan for the future.”

When asked to pinpoint the achievements he was most proud of over his long tenure, Mr Stewart said it was a difficult question to answer.

He praised the Shire for “always being willing to take considered risks” when providing infrastructure and pointed to its first Strategic Plan, adopted in 2004, which gave it developmental focus for the next 15 plus years.

This plan helped the Shire provide many upgrades to its main street, construct a new environmentally sound administration centre and purpose built Medical Centre and to purchase the Mount Barker Cattle Saleyards.

It also led to a $9m upgrade of Sounness Park including its artificial hockey turf, the joint venture development of the Public Library and Community Resource Centre and the completion of its new Community College.

Mr Stewart said he was also proud to have helped the Shire develop strong relationships with its neighbouring local authorities.

“These achievements were all the more significant as Plantagenet is a small rural local authority with only limited resources,” he reflected.

“The biggest challenge is finding enough money to get everything done as it is impossible to rely on ratepayer funds for everything.

“Another challenge is remaining positive within an environment where resources are scarce but if you stop achieving, your community would go backwards.”

Mr Stewart referred to the construction of the Mount Barker Medical Centre as a prime example of the unique difficulties facing local governments.

Although the Shire sold assets and received Federal Government funds to pay for the structure, the Centre could only go ahead after it received an interest free loan from Mount Barker’s local community bank.

“Also, we always knew that it would be difficult to build a national standard hockey pitch but still put the plans in place,” Mr Stewart said.

“Because the planning was in place, when funds were made available, we were in the box seat to successfully attract significant funding.”

Mr Stewart’s lengthy career will officially end on July 31 this year when his employment contract expires.

He said while he and his partner had expressed desire to remain in the Great Southern going forward, “the pull of grandchildren” will ultimately see them settle in an apartment in Perth.