Getting personal in local government
Roving reporter Kiel interviews 24-year-old Jake Brown about his career path through local government in Shepparton.
Behind every successful public figure, there's always someone there to give a helping hand when needed, a shoulder to lean on and a source of support and advice to ensure they perform to the best of their ability.
No, it's not the wives, husbands or good friends - it's the media advisors who accompany politicians, councillors and other key local representatives to activities, functions and important events around their municipality.
This is the life of 24-year-old Jake Brown, whose position as Civic Liaison at Greater Shepparton City Council includes being Personal Assistant to Greater Shepparton Mayor, Geoff Dobson.
Coming into Council
Born and bred in Mooroopna - just outside of Shepparton - Jake first considered working in local government after his dad saw an ad for an administrative assistant at the council in the local paper in 2007.
After finishing high school in 2003 and spending three years working as a projectionist and usher at the local cinemas, his parents encouraged him to look for a career change and he successfully applied for the position.
A couple of years later, a new Chief Executive Officer arrived and a Civic Liaison position was created to encompass the responsibilities of being Personal Assistant to the Mayor and councillors. Jake successfully applied for the new position, which he has held at the time of writing for seven months.
In his time with the Greater Shepparton City Council he's also achieved a variety of study qualifications through Council including a Certificate IV in Government and a Certificate IV in Business Frontline Management.
"I had no idea about local government until I started in 2007," Jake says, "but it presents a lot of opportunities to young people or anyone who wants to start or progress their careers - they've got a good training policy and they encourage their staff to take on further studies and training."
Sorting through the mail
In his daily duties, Jake is responsible for organising paperwork and letters from residents, as well as fielding calls and requests from media to speak with the Mayor and Greater Shepparton councillors.
He also ensures that Cr Dobson is aware of his daily commitments and the key issues impacting on Greater Shepparton, which is home to 60,000 people in the city of Shepparton and its surrounding towns.
"When someone writes to the mayor, it comes in to me and I'm the one who's got to make sure it gets out there to the right person and the issue is addressed," he says.
"I also need to make sure Geoff (Dobson) knows what's going on, because as you can imagine there is a lot to keep track of within Greater Shepparton. I always think if we're this busy, flat-out and stressful, I wonder what Melbourne's like!"
Jake says he's had to deal with a number of interesting requests from residents who want their concerns personally dealt with.
"We get letters which really should be addressed to the Police!" he chuckles. "I get calls about everything in my area - bins, the Shepparton lake, water, planning, subdivision, rural strategy - all sorts of things!"
"I once received a phone call informing me that someone was walking a snake near school children! It's challenging but fun, because I'm learning every day."
Living It up
Despite the weird letters and significant workload, Jake believes there are also many perks to his job, such as having access to the biggest events around town and meeting high-profile politicians.
"I'm lucky enough to tag along with the Mayor a fair bit, and whenever we have a minister come to town I'm the one organising it and making sure everything's right," he says.
"The best part is also when you go to all the openings, functions and events and see how happy people are with council, which is a nice change since people sometimes whinge a lot!"
The man Jake normally looks after - Greater Shepparton Mayor Geoff Dobson - finds him a pleasure to work with.
"The important issue from a PA's point of view working for the mayor and councillors is you've got to be efficient at your job, as well as having professionalism and a good working relationship," Cr Dobson says.
"That's where his responsibility is, and he's excellent at it. He has a very cheerful demeanour, and when we want things done, they get done. I'm sure if he wants to do some further study, he will go a long way in local government."
Giving back to the community
While he's still undecided about his long-term future, Jake relishes the opportunities he's been given through Greater Shepparton City Council and would encourage any young person who is passionate about their community to consider a career in local government.
"It's very rewarding, the opportunities that are presented to everyone are phenomenal and you don't get them in just any job that you apply for," he says.
"It's not the same mundane work every day and I'd especially encourage local people to get involved because it's their community, and if you want to be a part of it the best way is to work for your local council."
For more about getting involved in the political process, check out our Do-it-yourself democracy section, and check out our Articles archive for more articles about Work & study and Community & activism.
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