‘Worse than what you ever imagined’

Eye-opening assessment revealed at CEO’S farewell

Murray Jorgensen oversaw his last council meeting this week.

PERTH city council CEO Murray Jorgensen leaves this week after just under two years in the job.

Unlike the last two CEOs who were sacked before their contracts were up, Mr Jorgensen was always intended to be a short-term CEO installed to get the organisation on the straight and narrow.

At this week’s council meeting chair commissioner Andrew Hammond farewelled the CEO saying he’d transformed the city and assembled a solid team.

Cmmr Hammond recalled an early meeting between commissioners and Mr Jorgensen: “I can remember the defining discussion that we had. There was myself, the late Eric Lumsden, and Gaye [McMath] around the table. [Mr Jorgensen] said: ‘Look, I was advised that there were some problems at the City of Perth when I started, but I can tell you now that it is much, much worse than what you ever imagined’.

“I just left that meeting shaking my head, and sadly that proved to be right. But in saying that, to Murray’s very great credit he took the challenge on and has done an absolutely remarkable job.”

Mr Jorgensen gave a brief speech and said his time there was the most challenging, but satisfying, job he’d taken on.

“I couldn’t have done anything on my own,” Mr Jorgensen said.

“We’ve been fortunate to have very clear guidance and direction from commissioners but I think the thing that goes unreported and unrecognised is the dedication and professionalism and the efforts that take place 24/7 by an amazing group of people, and if I’m leaving a legacy it’s the people I’m leaving.”

When he arrived the staff numbers had ballooned to around 700, though there was no precise system to even track exactly how many were on the books. 

He cut the number of management staff by half and replaced five “directors” with general managers of four “alliances” intended to clearly outline responsibilities and break down the old feudal silo system. 

He brought in a crackdown on the council’s lax tendering process, and introduced long-term planning. Not every plan was a home run hit, with last year’s “Cultural Development Plan” criticised as taking the Christ out of Christmas with too much of a nod towards diversity. 

He’ll be replaced by Michelle Reynolds who’s finishing up as executive director of the Rottnest Island Authority.

BY DAVID BELL

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