Former city CEO quits

September 5, 2023 3:35 pm in by
Former CEO Kaarina Phyland has left council (supplied).

Geelong council says the resignation of former CEO Kaarina Phyland is effective immediately.

A city spokesperson last week said Ms Phyland was returning to her former role as Executive Director Strategy, Governance and Corporate after a 13-month stint as acting CEO.

Ali Wastie took over as chief executive last Monday (August 28), the first permanent council boss in over a year.

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The day before her successor assumed the role Ms Phyland warned council faced “more challenging” economic times and would need to find up to $30 million to “break even” in the 2023-24 financial year.

Ms Phyland said the city was “heading into insolvency” when she took over from Martin Cutter, who unexpectedly quit his CEO role in July 2022.

A council restructure under her tenure led to 19 redundancies and a controversial budget that slashed services and paused planned infrastructure projects was implemented.

“Over the past year at Geelong City we’ve been able to turnaround a predicted operating budget deficit of $8m,” Ms Phyland said.

“Its revenue generated through rates, grants and fees etc goes nowhere near covering the expenses of its 130 loss-making services.”

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The city declined to comment on Ms Phyland’s appraisal of its finances or reason for sudden exit, outside of a statement issued on behalf of Mayor Trent Sullivan and Ali Wastie.

“Kaarina has led the city through extraordinary challenges, from protecting frontline jobs and supporting our many essential workers throughout COVID-19, to navigating financial pressures under one of our toughest budgets in recent years,” Cr Sullivan said.

Ms Wastie spoke of the operational improvements at the city that were implemented under Ms Phyland.

“Kaarina initiated change that has made our organisation more strategic and working to common rhythms,” she said.