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New Stroud District Council Chief Executive wants to engage with communities

Published: Monday, 26 November, 2018

Stroud’s strong independent spirit helped draw new Stroud District Council chief executive Kathy O’Leary to the area – and she’s looking forward to meeting as many people as possible from day one.

Kathy, who starts work today (Monday, November 26), wants to understand the needs of residents, local businesses, community groups and charities in the Stroud district.

"Stroud District Council is well-run and it is a privilege to take on this role," said Kathy, who has moved to the district with her husband. It’s such a fantastic part of the country.

"People will know their communities better than I do, which is why I am keen to get out and meet as many people as possible - my door is open to people coming to see me too.

"By meeting, listening to and getting to know people, I’ll be able to establish where we can work together to make a difference."

She is meeting staff in their places of work, and embarking on ‘walk and talk’ trips in every council ward with elected members in order to get to know the district better.

Kathy has 32 years’ experience in the public sector, starting her career in local government as a Planning Officer with Hampshire County Council. She has subsequently worked for a number of district councils in Surrey, progressively moving into more senior management positions, and her last role was Strategic Director of Resources at Tandridge District Council.

Earlier in her career she also spent a year lecturing in Geography (Urban Planning & Development) at the University of Leeds.

A rigorous selection process involved councillors, council employees and external stakeholders, with the recommendation being made by an all-party group of councillors and party leaders. Members of the council voted unanimously in favour of the recommendation.

"When I met staff as part of the selection process, people were so friendly and welcoming and I got a good feeling about the place,” she said. “There is a definite buzz, an independent streak, and a feeling that people are proud of the services they provide to serve local communities."

When former Chief Executive David Hagg, who served in the post for 17 years, retired in October he left Stroud District Council in good shape. Residents and businesses have shown a high level of satisfaction with the council over a number of years, in marked contrast to the national trend which shows a decline in satisfaction with councils.

Stroud District Council’s latest annual survey showed that residents’ satisfaction with the council was 79% - just 1% down on the previous year’s highest-ever figure, with business satisfaction remaining the same as the previous year’s all time high of 70%.

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