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A year in review with first term mayor Cr Karen Williams
Achievements, challenges and personal crusades: a year in review with first term mayor Cr Karen Williams
During her first twelve months as Mayor Cr. Karen Williams achieved the lowest rate increase in South-East Queensland, pledged to put Redlands on the map as an undiscovered paradise and got increasingly comfortable sharing a few quirky snippets about her past including one of her former careers as a professional Yodeler. Council Courier spoke with Cr. Williams about her first year as Mayor of Redland City Council.
How would you sum up your first year as Mayor of Redland City Council?
As with any new Mayor it was a steep learning curve, at times challenging but always very exhilarating. I've found collaboration and support by other Mayors and leaders across the state very encouraging, helpful and important during my first 12 months in office.
Is there anything you would single out as the achievement you are most proud of?
Redlands had the lowest rate increase in South-East Queensland, something which I am very proud of. Nine weeks after the election we were able to bring down the budget, which was a significant achievement. On a less tangible level, I am very proud of the distinct cultural change which is beginning to show within council and the community – that Redland is open for business.
What has been your biggest challenge this year and how have you overcome it?
I would suggest my biggest challenge has been dealing with 10 distinctly different local government representatives and trying to find a common point where they all engage. We're now operating on the idea of unity – although we may have different community agendas, we all have the same desire to serve the community so that has been important to working through some of our challenges.
Redland City Council has most recently received international exposure through a new tourism campaign. Can you tell me a bit about this?
Redland really has a distinct identity of its own, and we've been working with our regional partners in order to leverage the kind of exposure we think we deserve. At times we have felt undiscovered and we really want to showcase the best attractions we have to offer, in particular making sure people realize we've got Moreton Bay and North Stradbroke Island right at our doorstep. We're a city of islands including Straddie and the Southern Moreton Bay Islands of Russell, Macleay, Lamb and Karragarra. Anywhere else in the world that would be considered as paradise.
As a former Councillor, how did you find the jump to Mayor impacted your lifestyle personally?
I found it a relatively small adjustment – I had a pretty clear understanding of the time commitments involved in the role before I started. Working among the community is always the most rewarding part of the job. After the first three or four months I was pretty tired but I think I've become immune to it now! I think I'm better able to manage and prioritise my time and be more selective in order to make sure I give all my constituents the ‘best bang for their buck'.
Unexpectedly I have found that some of my previous life stories which had previously been kept in the background have really being embraced during my time as Mayor. In a previous life I was a yodeller, and I've found that people are now really drawn to that as a point of interest. That was quite weird. I've been yodelling since I was 19, its part of my German-Polish heritage. It's very rewarding to be able to share that personal part of my life as a community leader with my community.
What can your constituents expect over the next three years?
Our focus will continue to put people first – with a ‘customer matters most' mindset running through everything we do. We want to be the best Council the Redlands has had, we want to be more responsive and provide more tangible outcomes. We want to make sure our community gets better access to the foreshore, and that the rest of South-East Queensland recognizes we're the gateway to Moreton Bay and North Stradbroke Island.
Do you have any personal goals you would like to achieve during the rest of your time as Mayor?
As a person in a leadership role I'm in a position to use this opportunity to put forward a cause and make others sit up and take notice. The issue of domestic violence towards women is something I'm particularly passionate about. I have an understanding of domestic violence in the city and will continue to do my best to put this disturbing issue on our agenda for attention.
Redland does have issues when it comes to the availability of domestic violence services and orders generated through our courts are higher than some neighboring regions. As Redland City is often perceived as a place of good fortune it can camouflage the fact that there are people in need in the city.
However exciting things are happening with women's groups creating an awareness of the issue. The Redlands Centre for Women are doing terrific work around this area, and in other areas ensuring women have a powerful presence in the community. I encourage people to visit their website and read about their important work.
Download the pdf A year in review: Interview with first term mayor Cr Karen Williams