Mark Chester stepping down after more than two decades

Stuart McGuckinSouth Western Times
VideoMark Chester reflects on 22 years as Dardanup shire CEO.

As Mark Chester sits down to reflect on 22 years as Dardanup shire’s chief executive, he only needs to take in his surroundings to appreciate how much things have changed.

He is perched on the steps of the Eaton Boomers Football Club’s new pavilion. On the horizon in front of him is the Eaton Recreation Centre and to his right the softball association’s own pavilion.

Behind him sit the council offices and the impressive, ever-expanding Eaton Fair, which he spent many hours working with developers on in order to approve plans.

But if you ask him how much credit he deserves, he will tell you it has always been a team effort.

“Over the past few months, people have been telling me to look back at what I achieved but it’s not me,” he said.

“I’ve just been part of a team that has made it work — I’m just a bus driver pointing which way to go.”

He said much of the work done behind the scenes to bring the council into a computer age was fundamental to its progress.

“Our IT stuff and our business analyst stuff has made Dardanup trendsetters,” he said.

“The council was willing to put money into it and we’ve been able to recruit visionary staff.

“We’ve had people from other companies and bigger local governments come to us to talk about what we do.”

Before taking the role at Dardanup, he had held the same position at Gnowangerup for four years, having worked previously in council positions at Jerramungup and Broomehill.

When he started in his role on January 20, 1997, the shire’s population was about 6500 and its administration centre was still in Dardanup.

Within 18 months, it had relocated to Eaton and its population is now pushing towards 14,000.

“We arrived in Bunbury on December 31 in 1996 and it was the hottest day they’ve ever had, I reckon,” he said.

“Ever since then, we’ve been here we have loved it.

“We love the place and we think there is a lot more to Bunbury than what some people who have lived here their whole lives.”

He said he had stayed in the role because he loved the job and enjoyed the challenge.

“I was here for the community,” he said.

“I wanted to improve the lifestyle and amenities for the community — I was always talking about the big picture.”

What he will miss the most is the people.

“I don’t always talk about my staff and the elected members as friends but I’ve made good friendships,” he said.

“One of my rules is that I don’t socialise with people I work with because it can make it hard when you have to manage them but there is a huge respect for what they do.”

He said too many people had been involved in his journey to mention.

“I just think Dardanup shire is the best and I’m leaving it in a strong position,” he said.

“It’s on a fantastic platform to launch into the next 50 years because when Wanju and the Waterloo Industrial Park start moving in the next couple of years, they will be flat out.”

“I’ll just be happy to come along, watch and maybe help as a consultant.”

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