Steve Jobs inspires council’s new CEO

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Apple founder Steve Jobs is an inspiration for Sanchia Jacobs, the new chief executive officer of the Central Otago District Council.

“Steve Jobs talked about Apple denting the universe. I’m that kind of person. That’s language that resonates with me. I get really motivated by that kind of language,” Ms Jacobs said.

“I have to believe that I have the scope to come into this role and do amazing things for this community, otherwise, what’s the point?” Ms Jacobs said.

“My great-grandfather was a gold-miner in Fruitlands, and he used to carry his bike up Old Man Range, and he’d bike down the sheep tracks on the other side to Waikaka, which is about 100km, where he was courting my great-grandmother.

“But here I am, two generations later, with that story sitting inside of me, and in this role I get the chance to do things that my great-grandchildren will talk about, so I take that really seriously,” Ms Jacobs said.

She had been in the role for a few weeks and had been observing and listening, she said.

“My early observations have been that people take a very practical approach to things, which I welcome.”

Having fewer layers of bureaucracy was a great thing for a council, Ms Jacobs said.

“I’ve been impressed with the ability of a smaller council like this to be more agile and innovative.”

Being able to effectively steer the high level of growth that Central Otago was experiencing was one factor Ms Jacobs was interested in, noting that for some parts of the country, growth had got ahead of the community very quickly.

“I would like to think that we are in a position to not let it get too far ahead of us,” Ms Jacobs said.

“I think that we approach that growth with all of our community in mind, so that nobody gets left behind as it happens.

“That sounds easy. It’s tough. It’s a challenge, but that’s what we are up for,” Ms Jacobs said.

One example of this was ensuring that people didn’t get “locked out” of having homes.

“You need to have that release of land, or land supply, so that properties are available and kept at an affordable rate,” Ms Jacobs said.

Some elements were outside the responsibility of council, so the focus for Ms Jacobs was how the council could help in a way that represented the community’s interests.

“What are the levers that council can use to enable the right kind of growth that Central Otago wants for itself?” Ms Jacobs said.

The community informed what a council did, so it was about representing what the community wanted, Ms Jacobs said.

“My job, my organisation’s job, is to give the best possible advice to our elected members, so they have the tools to make the best decisions that then the organisation needs to implement, so it’s cyclical.”

A human, relatively informal approach was part of how Ms Jacobs liked to operate, without shying away from difficult discussions.