Ken Gainger General Manager of Byron Shire Council
Ken Gainger General Manager of Byron Shire Council

Council general manager retires after 50 years

AFTER more than half a century in local government, Ken Gainger is hanging up his hat.

The Byron Shire Council general manager announced his retirement this week after 53 years working in local government.

Mr Ken Gainger, has resigned from his position effective January 31 next year, three years short of his expected term.

In 2016 Mr Gainger was reappointed for another four years to the top council job. Confirmed unanimously by councillors at the time, the appointment would have run until 2020.

Over recent months Mr Gainger has driven a tough economic agenda for the council, introducing paid parking for the Byron CBD and a rate rise for Byron shire residents that will see a 7.5 per cent rise over each of the next four years with the owner of an average property having to come up with an extra $377 in rates over the next four years.

The council is also on the verge of introducing paid parking for Bangalow and appears headed to introduce the same for Brunswick Heads. Both are unpopular measures.

At the time of Mr Gainger's re-appointment, Mayor Simon Richardson said Mr Gainger's strong leadership performance would give "much needed continuity and stability to the council's operations".

"Ken's extensive local government background and can-do attitude has allowed a fresh new operational culture to be built," Cr Richardson said.

A long career

Mr Gainger said: "I started as a 16 year old in Melbourne City Council working in administration." 

"I then went to environmental health and worked my way through my career to become general manager for various different councils in Victoria and New South Wales."

Having lived 20 years in the Byron Bay community Mr Gainger has found it easy to enjoy his work here.

"I would have to say Byron is one of the better (councils) I've worked in," he said.

"I enjoy being able to help my fellow residents."

Greatest achievement

One of his greatest achievements he will remember as Byron Bay general manager was helping the council become sustainable and fit for the future.

"Council weren't travelling all well when I first arrived," he said.

"There had been damning reports on the finances and a back log regarding road maintenance.

"When I was brought in I toiled with those situations and now the council is strong financially."

Mr Gainger gave the example where council only spent $4m on roads in 2012 that budget is now $40m.

"We have been declared fit for the future by the state government."

Byron Council in 2018

Mr Gainger said he feels confident that council is restructured in a sustainable way.

"We have new staff , new skills and whoever takes my place will have a good workforce to deal with," he said.

Future plans

Travel bookings have already been made for when Mr Gainger finally shuts the door to his office at the end of January next year.

"We (he and wife Sue) are going to Japan then after that will spend six months in Europe," he said.

With nine children between them and 12 grandchildren, all spread across Australia, the Gaingers also plan to spend time visiting family across Australia.

"I read so much documentation which was very dry stuff, that I had stopped reading socially," he said.

"I want to start reading again, and I think I will keep on learning Italian."

A very handy skill for his European trip.

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