How the City of Melbourne landed its new high-calibre CEO

Ben Rimmer was a high-profile recruit from the senior ranks of the Canberra bureaucracy to head up the Melbourne City Council. One of the recruiters reveals how he landed the job.

Executive recruitment by major government groups tends to be a secretive process with lots of politics, high pressure, tough decisions, delicate negotiations, egos to accommodate and well-paid handlers assisting with the arrangements.

The City of Melbourne has just been through the process. Given we claim to be “Australia’s most open and transparent council”, here’s a factual outline of how 42-year-old young gun Ben Rimmer, a high-flying federal public servant, was lured into the role.

First up, you need a vacancy. This occurred when the incumbent, Dr Kathy Alexander, gave us more than four months’ notice by announcing she would be resigning on December 3, her 60th birthday, after more than six successful years in the job.

The Napthine government had introduced but not passed legislation which would have required Victoria’s 89 councils to have a permanent CEO Employment Matters Committee with an independent chair. We decided to go with it, so former Ernst & Young partner Janine Kirk was recruited to join lord mayor Robert Doyle, Greens councillor Cathy Oke and myself on a suitably diverse four-person committee.

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