WHEN Stephen Sykes applied for a job heading up Orange City Council’s community services in 1982, the then 26-year-old barely knew where Orange was.
Thirty-one years later he is leaving the council and his role as enterprise services director, but not the “amazing” city he has helped build up over the years.
During his career with the council Mr Sykes moved across the ranks, working in community services, planning and finally settling in his most recent department.
“In lots of ways my role here has always been to go into the new directorate and tackle the new emerging issues and along the way I’ve been supported by some fantastic staff,” he said.
The unpredictability will be the thing he misses the most about working at the council.
“Working in local government has great personal rewards, but you are constantly expected to deliver all the time,” he said.
“I have a saying ... if you never wash up you never break dishes. It’s about getting your hands dirty and taking the risks.”
Before he took up the post in Orange, Mr Sykes worked to establish the Fairfield Community Resource Association - a private sector community services provider in the western suburbs.
Helping refugees settle into the community was a different challenge to what Orange would offer but Mr Sykes said council at the time had decided to boost the community services on offer including childcare.
“We had about 2500 people moving to Orange ... they needed childcare and facilities that provided them with a sense of community,” he said.
“All these services were taken for granted in Sydney ... for inland cities that was something quite new.”
The council’s next change was a drive to boost infrastructure to attract more residents.
Mr Sykes became human services director and worked behind the scenes to negotiate funding for the regional gallery and library to accompany the theatre.
“The underlying philosophy was if you provided good community amenity you would attract skills to live in the city,” he said.
“Subsequent research has supported that.”
Later, Mr Sykes became environmental services director to oversee changes to planning legislation and the local government act.
He also had a stint as assistant town clerk and lectured in local government management and planning as part of Charles Sturt University’s masters program.
The council’s next review looked at the role of economic development and the importance of sport and parks and gardens, including the synthetic hockey surface and Anzac Park.
It led to the creation of Mr Sykes’s enterprise services role where he oversaw the transformation of waste management from “the tip” into the community service it has become.
“We introduced recycling, which were all quite radical things at the time,” he said.
“We went from the Rolls Royce of garbage services where you could put out as many bins as you wanted to an environmental service and that required significant community engagement.”
He identifies the Orange Waste Project as the one of the main achievements of his career with 56 per cent of waste now diverted from landfill.
Chairing and driving Evocities to attract new residents and helping develop Netwaste were also key accomplishments, as was his involvement with the capacity building program for Mount Hagen, Orange’s sister city in Papua New Guinea.
Now most of the projects have wound up, Mr Sykes said the council had sensibly decided to merge many of his roles.
The same day he finished with council Mr Sykes also sold his vineyard and Nyrang guesthouse.
He will now turn his attention to renovating a cottage and see what emerges for his future career.