NEW Redland City Council chief executive Andrew Chesterman took the reins this week, vowing that he would be a staunch supporter of democracy.
He said he valued diverse opinions and believed that this was what brought about good debate.
He had the greatest admiration for a democracy’s elected representatives, given the courage it took for them to put themselves before the electorate and the pressures they were under.
Subsequently, he wanted to work with councillors to see what priorities they sought to put in place.
Mr Chesterman worked most recently for Brisbane City Council and was a state environment department director-general. In 2013 he was made Public Service Commissioner but was let go in 2015 after a change of government.
Mr Chesterman said he hoped the CEO’s job would see him taking up issues like planning, the environment and people.
He was aware of issues regarding koalas and believed that development could occur with sensitivity to the environment although he had not had a chance to study local affairs in detail.
Mr Chesterman declined to comment on the Queensland Ombudsman’s report on council threatening legal action against constituents over social media comments and said policy positions like population growth would be left to councillors.
Like former chief executive Bill Lyon, he would keep a close eye on the financial sustainability of Redland city.
Mr Chesterman is a keen long distance runner and fisherman and is married to Anita.
The couple has a daughter doing year 12 and an intellectually disabled child, a 13-year-old son who Mr Chesterman says keeps him grounded.
“He can’t talk but he teaches me far more than I ever teach him,’’ he said.
Formerly from Melbourne, he studied coastal planning and taught environmental science in a remote wilderness area of Victoria
Mr Chesterman said he and his wife and son originally travelled north looking for adventure, ending up in Brisbane.
He has raised the prospect of a Redlands move with his wife. “I also point out good boats to buy,’’ he said. “...I can’t call myself a fisherman. I take a mate (fishing) and I talk about ‘our’ fish.’’
Mr Chesterman said he was amazed at the Redlands lifestyle which was part of the reason for him taking up the job. Redlands was special, with big natural assets and a place that should not try to be something else.
“The environment here was what attracted me,’’ he said. “It’s natural beauty astounds me and I’m surprised that more people don’t talk about that.’’