Now she's Madam President

From a library assistant to chief of the chiefs

TARYN UTIGER
Last updated 05:00 11/06/2014
babs
Barbara McKerrow

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After finishing her degree in English and history Barbara McKerrow considered a career in journalism.

By chance, or some may say fate, the woman who is now New Plymouth District Council's chief executive ended up working as a library assistant before starting her postgraduate studies.

The idea of being a reporter was soon sidelined when she realised how many late-night shifts were involved, and she decided she would study to become a librarian instead.

More than 30 years later that choice has led to McKerrow being elected president of the New Zealand Society of Local Government Managers.

After working her way up the corporate ladder, from a library assistant to chief executive, McKerrow said her latest role was a welcome challenge.

The national organisation for local government practitioners is made up of 78 chief executives from the industry, senior managers and emerging managers.

It means McKerrow will be at the forefront of the managerial side of local government.

"In Solgm we bring our expertise into the mix when things are being considered, like major legislative or policy changes," she said.

"Our view is more about the implementation of those kinds of changes, because we are the practitioners who then have to work with those things."

Solgm played a leading role developing professional leadership, promoting excellence in management practice and developing sector capability so that local authorities were being supported to deliver their services in the best ways possible, she said.

McKerrow, who had been the vice-president of Solgm for two years, will take up her new role on July 1.

Solgm meets quarterly and McKerrow will also travel overseas to be the New Zealand representative at local government conferences.

"All of that is at no cost to this council and is good for my professional development," she said. "You bring back some real benefits to your own organisation."

New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd said McKerrow's selection was a testament to her unrivalled skills in local government.

"It sends a strong message that her colleagues think so highly of her that they have elected her to be their president," Judd said.

"To be recognised by your peers is one of the highest honours."

The council would benefit greatly from McKerrow's position as president of Solgm, he said.

"We are literally going to be where the rubber hits the road in terms of new legislation.

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"There will be great benefits for us in that."

- Taranaki Daily News

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