Q&A with Vin Fordham Lamont, CEO, Shire of Carnamah
Nestled in the Mid-West of Western Australia, just two hours from Perth, and 90kms from the coast, the Shire of Carnamah is home to a community of 548 residents. We recently caught up with the Shire’s CEO, Vin Forham Lamont to explore his career in local government, and discover the exciting vision he has for the region’s future.
Q. Are you able to briefly explain your career background, and what led you to Shire of Carnamah?
A. I’ve worked in Local Government for nine years now, and have been in this role for 18 months. I began my Local Government career in 2012 at Shire of Coorow as Deputy CEO. In 2015, I moved to the Deputy CEO role at the Shire of Gnowangerup and in January 2020, I commenced my current role as CEO at the Shire of Carnamah.
Prior to working in Local Government, I spent time in banking and credit societies as well as State Government agencies including, what was then called the Department of Conservation and Land Management, and the Department of Environment and Heritage.
Q. Prior to working in Local Government what were your perceptions/expectations of working in a council environment?
A. I actually did my Year 10 work experience in Local Government and I really enjoyed it. I saw it as a good opportunity to have a great career, without having to live in Perth. When I eventually finished school, I went in a different direction, but I’ve always held an interest in a Local Government career.
Q. What do you think surprises people the most about working in Local Government?
A. Most people really don’t know the breadth of services we provide. People think that we pick up the rubbish and look after the roads and that’s it!
In reality, today we do so much more than that.
Right now, we’re working on an economic revival strategy for Eneabba, a town within our Shire. Eneabba was originally an agricultural town like Carnamah, but for the last 45 years, mining company Iluka have mined mineral sands there.
However, the life of the mine is coming to an end, and while the company is looking to engage in further mining activity in the area, the Council is now considering how we could build a more sustainable economic future for the community.
We know our region here is ideal for generating renewable energy - it offers the perfect conditions for wind turbines and solar farms. Eneabba is also located on a major highway, has a main railway line running through it, and the longest natural gas pipeline in Australia; the Dampier to Bunbury Natural Gas Pipeline (DBNGP) runs close to the town as well. To top it off, we’ve also discovered that the land is ideal for producing green hydrogen, which we know is seen globally as one of the key solutions for reducing greenhouse gases.
The land owners, including Iluka and an indigenous congregation would benefit from rental income on the land and are all on board with our proposal to promote the region as a renewable energy hot spot, with the benefit of already established infrastructure.
It’s really exciting for the region - more services will be required, meaning more businesses and more jobs for the community.
Q. What are the top three things you enjoy most about your role, and working at Shire of Carnamah?
- I have a good team. Good people do make it enjoyable, I’m really happy with my 27-strong team here.
- I also really enjoy and value the informal camaraderie between my colleagues from different Councils within Western Australia. The vast majority of people will share their documentation and their knowledge. It’s not like we’re competing with each other, and no one wants to reinvent the wheel.
- And finally, solving problems – we all have challenges in our roles and it’s satisfying knowing that you’ve been able to make difference.
Q. What do you think you get working for Shire of Carnamah that you wouldn’t get anywhere else?
A. A very approachable CEO! It’s a very close team here and people are always happy to help out each other - you don’t get that everywhere.
Also, one of the things that makes Western Australia different is that we have much smaller Local Government Authorities than other states. With only 548 residents, the Shire of Carnamah is actually nowhere near the smallest!
You’ll find that in the country, you become a jack of all trades. You might not become as proficient in one single task as someone in a bigger organisation who has a narrower focus, but you’ll definitely never get bored because of the variety in your role. You end up knowing a little bit about everything.
Q. Is it important to you to know you’re making a difference to the community?
A. Absolutely - the job satisfaction comes with creating things to improving the services, infrastructure and lives of people in the community.
You can get caught up in the politics, but the truth is, we’re all wanting the best thing for the community. And that’s a good tip to remember when you’re having discussions with people – they may not have the same view as you, but if they work in Local Government, chances are their stance will be coming from a good place.
Q. How would you describe your leadership style?
A. I have a collaborative, collegiate leadership style. I might be CEO, but that doesn’t mean that my team members’ views are any less important than mine. And, I believe firmly that my role is not to be the number one person in any one thing; I don’t expect that I know more about rates than my Rates Officer, or know more about building roads than my Works Manager. I know enough to understand what is going on, but I value them as the experts and I make sure that it’s them that get credited for their great ideas.
Q. In your opinion, what skills, behaviours and attributes do successful Local Government employees all share?
A. Resilience, excellent communication skills and dedication are all crucial attributes to succeed in Local Government.
Q. If you were chatting to someone who is considering applying for a role at Shire of Carnamah; what would you say to help convince them to join?
A. Come and enjoy the fresh country air, out of the hustle and bustle of the city. Experience an organisation that supports your growth, and your professional learning and development. You’ll have access to amazing facilities; a swimming pool, brand new gym and a wide-range of sporting clubs and community groups – and all only two hours from Perth!
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