117 – ‘Captain Council’. A local government superhero.

Posted by Linda Perkin                                                                                       670 words

Captain council

Introducing our newest superhero ‘Captain Council’. When writing something recently, I found myself asking ‘What would Arnie do?’ Arnold Schwarzenegger’s response to a situation has become something of a yardstick. It made me think that what we really need in local government is our own yardstick – what would ‘Captain Council’ think or do?

There is always a back story. Here goes.

Captain Council is a former council manager who sought election to his local Council to improve services.

In his job he had been marginalised for constantly focussing on how work could be done better. His continual efforts to get everyone else to think differently and challenge the status quo created enemies amongst those in the organisation who were threatened by change. These people criticised him to higher authority (behind his back) and diminished his career prospects to limit his influence. Higher office seemed the only way forward.

Elected at his first attempt, Captain Council (not yet a superhero) relished the opportunity to make things better. However, he was quickly shunned by his peers because of his single-mined focus on ratepayers and their needs and expectations. He was left friendless after his failure to understand the intricacies of Mayoral elections, entertain service clubs, engage with the political melange, flirt with the local media, or put the interests of constituents in his ward ahead of the whole community.

Now friendless and alone, Captain Council sought solace in reading books about local government management. He read the works of Mark H. Moore, Peter R. Scholtes and John Seddon. If only he could convince people of their merit – the world of local government could be transformed.

One day he stumbled across a book of management alchemy – ‘How to be a better leader and become an instant success’. Knowing that it probably couldn’t be true, and that, despite their popularity, there are risks in reading these books, he read on.

On the last page was a spell to transform yourself from an ordinary and uninspiring manager into a local government CEO. He pored eagerly over the pages. Again, common sense warned him that this was too good to be true, but the evidence was overwhelming! The book was filled with success stories – and he had seen some himself.

Desperate to make a difference and emboldened by the stories of success, he decided to try the spell. Captain Council cautiously read the words:

To fly, to fly, to soar like a bird,

To make things fly, what shall I do?

I know! A shoe! A shoe of someone who’s been on the Executive, maybe not,

5 feathers of a flamingo, no, bald eagle

And the eyes of a hawk

A piece of a rotor off a helicopter


Boil it, bake it, Then, when the ingredients have dissolved, say these words

Noshi Gamb Shanch Shalaylay.

Then, drink it, and you shall fly

Later that day with one of the CEO’s shoes, taken from his gym bag, the eyes from a Hawthorn Football Club toy Hawk (it seemed the kindest way) and a picture of a helicopter (the one from the wall of the Executive meeting room that was put there to remind them to regularly look at the big picture) Captain Council cooked up the ingredients.

When they were boiling furiously he cried ‘Noshi Gamb Shanch Shalaylay’ and immediately fell breathless to the floor, unconscious. He awoke some hours later feeling exactly the same as he had before he cast the spell. Useless book, he thought, just as he realised he was going to be late for a Council meeting. Rushing, he just managed to get to the meeting as the traditional owners were being acknowledged … TO BE CONTINUED.

What happens next?

What super powers does Captain Council possess? How does he discover them? What might he need to use them for? How can he make a difference with them?

Suggestions are welcome. Just post a comment for everyone or send one to me via localgovernmentutopia@gmail.com . Stay tuned.


With thanks (and apologies for alterations) to Alex, aged 10