Bayside Council general manager on her road from library assistant to leader

Driven to succeed: Bayside Council General Manager Meredith Wallace. Picture: John Veage
Driven to succeed: Bayside Council General Manager Meredith Wallace. Picture: John Veage

Meredith Wallace is a self-confessed local government addict.

But it didn’t start out that way for the Bayside Council general manager.

Her career in local government began by chance after she was seconded from the Department of Education to a TAFE library on the Central Coast.

She was later asked to work casually at the Gosford Council Library in 1979 which spurred a career that has lasted more than 35 years.

‘’I spent the first 14 years of my local government career at Gosford City Council and I went from being a casual weekend library assistant through to being the library services manager,’’ she said.

‘’I loved every opportunity that was given to me.’’

She later moved to Parramatta Council and Waverley Council before finding a home at Rockdale in 2011.

She said rather than turning away from opportunities she embraced them.

‘’I think I absolutely wanted those challenges,’’ she said.

‘’I’ve been very fortunate with the people I’ve worked with, and for, and I’ve been able to have and build really strong teams around me.

‘’I’m a strong believer that if you surround yourself with competent people and you build good working relationships and good teams you can achieve remarkable things.’’

Ms Wallace said she was over the moon after finding out she had been appointed to the general manager position.

‘’I thought Rockdale made a very brave decision in taking on a female GM and one who hadn’t had a long track record of undertaking that role in another part of Sydney or NSW,’’ she said.

‘’I admire them for that and I, of course, was extremely excited to do that.’’

She said, despite being only one of several female general managers in Sydney, she hadn’t faced any opposition because of her gender.

‘’I think the expectations of me and what I will deliver is not dependent on gender at all,’’ she said.

‘’I think once people understand the person that you are and how you go about delivering things for the council, it [gender] becomes irrelevant.

‘’I do think as women we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, we want to do our absolute best at work and our absolute best in our personal lives. We want to have it all and I think I’ve been very fortunate to do that.’’

She said the recent council amalgamation had been both the most enjoyable and challenging time of her career.

‘’I’m very, very proud of the way our organisation responded pre-proclamation,’’ she said.

‘’Rockdale Council did a remarkable job in preparation and I think now, in terms of the work and effort the staff have done in the last nine months, I’m very proud of that.

‘’It’s something the public doesn’t necessarily see and in a way it’s a mark of our success that it has been business as usual.’’

Earlier this month Administrator Greg Wright extended her contract for another five years.

She said staying was a no-brainer.

‘’This is a once in a career opportunity, it’s not something that you get to do very often,’’ she said.

‘’I think it’s fantastic for me but I’ve had lots of feedback from staff and former councillors and MP’s that there’s a sense of stability and continuity during a time of great change.’’

She said her focus over the next five years was to continue to build the council as a unified organisation.

‘’I would really love to be able to hand over to whoever comes after me in this role a very strong, unified organisation,’’ she said.

‘’By the time five years rolls around I would like us to have an absolutely exemplary reputation in the industry. I want people to want to work at Bayside in preference to anywhere else because this is where it’s all happening.’’