NSW chief Blair Comley leaves top job as Transport's Tim Reardon ascends

By Julian Bajkowski

November 10, 2017

There’s changing of the guard in the New South Wales public service with head of the service, Blair Comley, leaving after three years.

Stepping into the top job at the Department of Premier and Cabinet will be current Secretary for Transport NSW, Tim Reardon.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has replaced a number of her inner circle of advisors in recent months, now capped off with a new public service chief. Berejiklian made the announcement on Friday afternoon, paying tribute to what she described as “three years of exceptional service as Secretary of the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet” by Comley.

The elevation of Reardon — who is widely trusted on the execution and delivery fronts — signals a renewed emphasis from Macquarie Street to ensure that key projects and commitments will not only materialise but be seen to do so as the state government embarks on the biggest infrastructure renewal in Australia for decades.

Despite substantial disruption caused by a rash of construction activity connected with roads, rail and urban renewal, transport has remained the most conspicuous success point for the NSW government with  patronage increasing substantially thanks to bolstered and more frequent and efficient services.

Applying some of that know-how to other portfolios is shaping up as a new priority for the new Secretary of DPC as the Premier moves to put the stamp of positive and productive change on her personal brand after her predecessor Mike Baird walked away from or was forced to water down key reforms around council mergers and junk a ban on greyhound racing.

In the interim, the tributes are flowing from the top for Comley .

“Blair has been outstanding at the helm of the Department, and the NSW public service, since his appointment in 2014,” Berejiklian said.

“His successful implementation of the Government Sector Employee (GSE) Act across NSW agencies and his reforms to Cabinet processes are among his most significant achievements, both of which have further strengthened the capability, accountability and integrity of NSW Government,” the Premier said.

“It is widely recognised around Australia that under his leadership, the NSW public service has been transformed into a desirable and exciting employer of choice for those seeking a rewarding public service career, something of which I am immensely proud.”

A known stickler for policy detail, Berejiklian was just as quick to push the upside of Reardon’s appointment from within the machine of government.

“I am delighted Tim has accepted the role of Secretary of my Department,” the Premier said. “His expertise in strategic infrastructure planning and project delivery has been at the heart of this Government’s achievements and I am looking forward to him now bringing this expertise to the centre of government.

“With more than six years at the most senior levels of the NSW public sector and more than 20 years in senior roles in both the public and private sectors around Australia, Tim is the ideal person to take on leadership of the NSW public service.”

However Reardon’s elevation also leaves big shoes to fill at transport. The Premier said Rodd Staples, now Program Director of Sydney Metro Delivery Office, will act in the role of Secretary for TfNSW from November 18.

The Premier’s Office said a new Secretary of TfNSW would be announced “in due course”.

That job could be far tougher to fill.

Continue reading: Can Reardon transport success to DPC?

Top photo: Tim Reardon knows how to stand in front of a bus and walk away. Source: Transport for NSW.

Right photo: Tim Reardon (right) and his temporary replacement at Transport for NSW, Rodd Staples. Source: NSW Public Service Commission.

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