Lisa Scaffidi, Lord Mayor of Perth, Western Australia, was first elected in October 2007
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Mayor of the Month for May 2012*
Lord Mayor of Perth
By Brian Baker, Senior Correspondent
19 June 2012*: “From my first day in office l have been - and will remain - a very accessible and public-focussed mayor,” Lisa Scaffidi, Lord Mayor of Perth, Western Australia, told City Mayors. She regards social media as the promotional tool of the 21st century and says she communicates through Facebook and Twitter with many citizens which she could not reach by more traditional means. “l have a visibility and the people get to know what l stand for and do. It is much more effective than a 30-second TV advertisement.” Lord Mayor Scaffidi was awarded the World Mayor Commendation 2012. She has also signed up to the City Mayors' Code of Ethics.
Update October 2015: Lisa Scaffidi re-elected to a third term of Mayor of Perth
Lisa Scaffidi was first elected Lord Mayor of Perth, Western Australia, in October 2007. She defeated the outgoing Deputy Lord Mayor Michael Sutherland winning 56 per cent of the votes. She stood for re-election to a second four-year term in October 2011 and won with a margin of 25 per cent over her principal challenger, businesswoman Anne Bontempo.
Following her re-election for a second term, Ms Scaffidi said: “l am glad this was a contested election. The voters have given me a strong mandate to progress the important projects and programs for our city’s exciting future.”
Mayor Scaffidi became a member of Perth City Council in 2000. She told City Mayors “I had become involved in local issues and subsequently politics within the neighbourhood to which l had moved in 1998. In early 2000 some people encouraged me to run for Council so l did so and won. From day one l discovered a whole new world that l found incredibly interesting and particularly the discussions around the city and urban planning. I have always loved cities and thinking about what makes them ‘tick’.”
Leading Perth requires a broad perspective because it is the core of a conurbation of 1.6 million people and of the whole of Western Australia so the Lord Mayor, especially, has to be aware of that responsibility and opportunity.
Perth City Council employs more than 500 people and though it is not directly responsible for schools or acute health care it has involvement in and impact on nearly everything. The authority sees its core responsibility as to manage the growth and development of Western Australia’s capital city.
The Council staff are organised into four directorates. The Services Units directorate is responsible for most of the day-to-day high profile activity including child care, community services and libraries. The Business Unit directorate is responsible for contracts, direct public works interventions including parks and vehicle parking. The remaining elements of the council are within either the Corporate Directorate or the Planning and Development Directorate.
During her first term the Council produced its 2009 four-year plan and the mayor will now oversee its 2013 successor. She is strongly promoting sustainable growth and both the city strategy and its organisational structure reflect that. In 2008-9 they hired legendary urban designers Gehl Architects to produce a Public Spaces Public Life plan, which was incorporated in to all the current strategies.
Lisa Scaffidi says: “I am very pro smarter and more sustainable use of our land. I do not believe that it comes with loss of conservation but that it enables and actually promotes more conservation through smarter and more focussed land use and planning.”
Amongst action across a range of fronts the city is currently implementing its 2011-2014 Physical Activity Strategy and Health and Well-Being policies whilst continuing with to secure sustainable developments which knit the urban form together and provide an attractive urban environment for inward investors and established businesses, existing and new residents and support of the success of its higher education, research and cultural industries sectors.
Mayor Scaffidi was the Chief Executive Officer within Western Australia for the business led Committee for Economic Development of Australia for 11 years until becoming mayor in 2007.
She recalls “in that role l was aware of the increasing strength and importance of Western Australia to our national economy and of the growth of Perth as the western gateway to our continent.”
Her principal election slogan in her 2007 campaign was ‘Get Perth Moving.’ After she won she claimed that her election was testament to voters being ready for change in the city. Her campaign in 2011 was a call for a continuation of this process. “In 2007 the people endorsed my view that it was time to turn the vision for a vibrant Perth into reality. It was time for action to build a city for tomorrow.”
She emphasises continuity now underpinned by “an action plan endorsed by the community.”
Mayor Scaffidi says “l have a strong economic development focus this term. We already have so much major construction occurring in our city that we cannot commit to more but what we need to do is encourage business and trade opportunities and to look at ways business can be enhanced and be encouraged to work more smartly and efficiently.”
“We have started major projects which were talked about for decades,” she says. “These will mostly be completed during my second term. We will focus on maintaining strong communication to ensure we keep the confidence of the public during the often disruptive construction phase of these projects.”
Lisa Scaffidi’s determination to get Perth moving forward was epitomised by her unwavering promotion of two major projects in particular. These had been planned and discussed for a long time without coming to fruition. They are the redevelopment of the city waterfront and the Northbridge link. Northbridge, to the north of the city centre core, has been separated from it by a railway which is now being lowered into cutting and replaced on the surface by an attractive boulevard which will become the central city’s principal north-south axis.
The commitment to delivering these complex schemes was tested along the way but the mayor has maintained support for them and other developments especially from younger residents. She emphasises there is a strong connection between capacity building and support for arts and culture. “We will generate a denser, larger central city with twin axes which will accommodate all the mining and oil and gas and other national and international companies which want a presence here and also all the other elements of a vibrant central area,” she says.
“A vibrant arts and culture community within a city serves us well by enhancing our quality of life, building on opportunities for youth and creating a competitive edge in attracting and retaining businesses and skilled workers.”
“From my first day in office l have been, and will remain, a very accessible and public-focussed mayor,” says Lisa Scaffidi. “I believe that is how the role should be undertaken and l have proven that this has improved community confidence and our city’s credibility. I see myself as a ‘connector’ and love being able to bring people and opportunities together for our city.”
During her first four and a half years as the Lord Mayor Scaffidi has been very active in use of electronic social media to communicate with citizens especially the younger people. She has reached her limit of 5000 friends on the Facebook website. She has a reputation of answering emails within 24 hours too.
She explained to City Mayors her thinking on this issue. “I have embraced social media as a great way to communicate with many people who would not otherwise have connected with what l do. Previously the role of a Lord Mayor and what it is that keeps them busy was a mystery to many. But through Facebook and Twitter, which l see as the promotional tools of the 21st century and a new form of literacy, l have a visibility and the people get to know what l stand for and do. It is much more effective than a 30-second TV advertisement.”
“I don’t worry about privacy issues as l post responsibly and do not get too personal with it. Social media is here to stay and it is truly helping us to encourage our citizens to realise Perth’s place in the nation and globally.”
Her inclusive outgoing approach was exemplified when she chose to give an interview to ‘Out in Perth’, the city’s gay and lesbian magazine, a short time after her re-election. In part, too, this was to thank the many members of that community who changed their Facebook profiles to read ‘Team Lisa’ during the campaign.
Lisa Scaffidi says in 2030 Perth will be “a city that, through a lot of good planning, has learned from others and embraced sustainability. I believe our city will be seen as a global city of substance and that our citizens will be very energised. Our business opportunities will have flourished thanks to our abundance of resources in Western Australia and we will also have encouraged other sectors with a focus on education, culture, science and medicine.”
Like most successful mayors Scaffidi has had to think about governance structures and tiers. Reform is under way in Western Australia with the number of local authorities set to be reduced and whilst not calling for specific changes at a sensitive time she emphasises the significance of the issue.
“For the next 50 or so years it is going to be how our tiers of government work together and how well we plan and implement smart growth and change that is going to truly test us and prepare us for the future.”
Some criticism of Lisa Scaffidi during the 2011 re-election campaign focussed on her international travel but she insists it is a necessary part of the job. “I have a clear vision of the benefits and leverage we can have for Perth through the connection to and the work with specific and targeted international locations.”
She says she should be judged on achievement not cost on trips and cites her recent travel to Sichuan Province in China and a new co-operation agreement with its capital Chengdu.
Lisa Scaffidi says close links across several sectors with a region with a population of 80 million people will be critical for Perth and Western Australia going forward. “These links will also support our role in the area of education. Perth is now seen as a major education provider for many students from all over the world which serves our city well by bringing diversity and obvious economic benefits.”
“I enjoy promoting our city as an attractive and smart place for business to operate in. Perth has great global relevance now and with our world-class academic institutions also embracing overseas growth opportunities we are creating the right environment for the future.”
Amongst its international networking activities, the City Council is a member of the World Energy Cities Partnership.
Before taking up her post with the Committee for Economic Development Scaffidi amassed a broad range of experience in several economic sectors. She worked in health after graduating in dental therapy, transport, in which she was an airline steward, hospitality, marketing and exporting.
Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi has been shortlisted for the 2012 World Mayor Prize
*This article was originally published in May 2012 and updated in June 2012.
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