Newcastle City Council appoints Jeremy Bath chief executive officer

Council appoints Jeremy Bath chief executive officer TweetFacebook Jeremy BathJeremy Bath said he had thick skin and was willing to wear the fallout of unpopular decisions after being appointed as Newcastle City Council’s chief executive officer on Tuesday night.

The 41-year-old formerpublic affairs manager and interim chief executiveat Hunter Water has been a high-profile figure at the council since being appointed to the $390,000-a-year job on an interim basisin April.

Councillors voted on Tuesday to remove the “interim” from his job title, and he has signed acontract to lead the council for the next five years.

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Meet Jeremy BathJeremy Bath appointed interim CEOCouncil staff move to west endHis seven-month stewardship to date has included divisive battles over the city’s first Supercars race and the rail corridor rezoning, but he said he was willing to wear some bruises in his position.

“I was a spokesperson for the registered club industry. I’ve certainly been shot at on many occasions and I’ve got very thick skin. But the reality, whether I like it or not, is it comes with the job,” he said.

“If you can’t handle being the spokesman for an organisation and having to defend unpopular decisions, as well as explain the popular decisions, then, frankly, don’t apply for the job.”

One decision which has proven particularly unpopular this week was the councillors’ vote on Tuesday to award themselves a 16 per cent pay rise.

A council report recommending the pay hike was authored by another staff member, but Mr Bath told the meeting that it was his decision to revisit the issue after the previous council had rejected a wage rise in June.

He told theNewcastle Heraldon Wednesday that the timing of the pay-rise debate justminutes after the council had voted to hand him the CEO job was unfortunate, but he stood by his decision to raise the pay issue again.

“The decision on my appointment was done prior to the decision on the pay rise, and the author of the paper wasn’t me. I had deliberately not put my name to that paper.

“Back in June this year I made it very clear to the senior managers that I thought it was a poor decision for them to put a paper up to the council that had a blank line in it where it was up to the councillors to insert what their councillor fee should be.

“I’d like to think that ratepayers would understand that it is a far better outcome for the council administrative staff to be recommending a figure than for councillors to be recommending their own figure.”

Mr Bath’s interim appointment in April followed claims fromCr Allan Robinson that a mystery manin Belmont had told him two days before interviews began whohad won the job, butan Office of Local Government investigation foundnothing “improper or unethical” in his recruitment.

Apart from his roles at Hunter Water, Mr Bath has been a press secretary for Liberal senator John Tierney, Fairfield Council communications officer, media relations manager for ClubsNSW and Clubs and lobbyist for conservative strategistsCrosby Textor.

He said rumours that he had political ambitions were off the mark.

“Having seen what politicians have to go through on a daily basis, the invasions into their privacy, the misconstruing of their actions and decisions, frankly, I couldn’t think of a job that is less appealing.”

Lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said in a statement on Wednesday that Mr Bath had proved his worth asa “collaborator and negotiatorto achieve great outcomes for the city and the organisation”.

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