We sat down with the Mayor of Cumberland City Council, Steve Christou about the uncertainty that COVID has created, and the projects he’s most proud of.
Hello Steve! Could you tell us a little bit about your community and your career before you became Mayor?
Before becoming an elected representative, I worked as a political staffer to a federal member of Parliament. There, I gained an in-depth understanding of the federal political environment, policy, media and conflict management.
I live in Guildford. I’m married with twin teenage daughters. I coach athletics in my spare time. I was initially elected as a councillor on September 9, 2017, representing the Granville Ward.
As Mayor, I meet with constituents, MPs, foreign dignitaries, community leaders, sporting organisations and various national governing bodies to build relationships and advocate for Cumberland.
Since becoming Mayor in 2019, I’ve focused the council’s strategy on going back to basics – ensuring that we deliver quality key services. I believe elected representatives should be accessible and responsive. I host face-to-face weekly ‘Meet Your Mayor’ events, and I make my email and mobile number widely available so residents can contact me directly.
As Mayor, you have a number of community priorities. What do you see as some of the most important, and what are the most exciting developments happening in Cumberland?
We opened the newly renovated Wentworthville Pool, The Granville Centre and we’ll be finalising Granville Park, which includes a new sports stadium with function centre. I’ve strongly focused on quality key services. We’ve had to make some difficult decisions during the pandemic to ensure our budget remains in a healthy position. I’ve prioritised footpaths, roads, parks and gardens – which is what the community sees as a priority.
Take us through a day in your life. What does typical look like for you?
First, I check emails, social media and look at the state, national and local media. Then it’s breakfast, and ensuring my teenage daughters are ready for school (this is a feat most days!). After dropping them off at school, I arrive at the office at 8:30-9am, where I meet with residents, businesses and community organisations to discuss and work through issues or initiatives. I meet with council executive leaders or officers to keep across important operational matters. After work, I coach athletics, then it’s home time – which means family dinner, more emails and returning calls – I pride myself on being available to my community. This includes by mobile, up until 9pm.
I consider myself successful if community members give positive feedback, the budget is balanced and we’re providing good quality services.
How would you describe your leadership style?
Hands-on. I like to be across operations and detail. I ensure that council officers are accountable and that operations are running as they should.
What characteristics do you think makes a great leader?
Negotiation skills. Good people skills. Taking the time to listen and understand. But that also means you should be informed, decisive and show empathy and compassion. I think a great leader should constantly learn and develop as a professional.
What keeps you up at night?
The pandemic and its impact on our community. The short and long term consequences are very serious – economically, socially, culturally. On top of that, there will surely be new challenges that can’t foresee right now. It will take many years to recover.
What career advice would you give a younger you? And how do you define success?
Don’t sweat the small stuff, and pick your battles. In my role as Mayor, I consider myself successful if community members give positive feedback, the budget is balanced and we’re providing good quality services. The nuts and bolts are the most important.
As Mayor, what have been your three biggest achievements to date?
First, the Wentworthville Pool refurbishment. It opened in April 2021, I believe it to be an important community facility.
Next would be Granville Park – it’s a fantastic new field and stadium, set to be opened in 2021.
Also, keeping the budget on track, particularly during the tough pandemic period.
Steve Christou is Mayor of Cumberland City Council
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