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for fun 15
Leaders should eat last
By JUDITH LACY
Positive vision: Palmerston North City Council chief executive Paddy Clifford says he is ''very positive'' about the city.
Photo: LEILANI HATCH
IN A NUTSHELL
On Palmerston North
''I'm really proud to live here.''
The people are relaxed and it is a welcoming and tolerant city.
The cultural diversity reminds him of where he grew up in London.
On public criticism
It is part of the job and he does not take it to heart, but is open to
''It is important to listen to people, to hear what they say, and take on
board, and always respect people.''
On turning down a 3.9 per cent pay rise last year
Palmerston North City Council staff were not getting much of an increase
and it did not seem right to accept his.
''I think sometimes leaders need to eat last, not first.''
His internal pendulum told him it was not right.
The first house Paddy Clifford
lived in had no running water
and an outside toilet.
Now the Irish-born man heads
Palmerston North City Council,
which is responsible for delivering
water and wastewater services to
more than 80,000 people.
Paddy's father was the village
garde (policeman). He lived with his
four siblings and his parents in a
County Limerick police house.
When Mr Clifford was small, the
family moved to London. At first
they stayed with extended family --
13 people in a three-bedroom house
in Kilburn, which has the highest
Irish population anywhere in
His parents later bought a house
in the same area, which was also
favoured by migrants from West
Indies, Africa, Poland, India, Italy
It was great growing up with
children from different back-
The Victorian house was small
and the Cliffords shared a bathroom
with two other families.
Paddy's dad worked in security
and the Clifford children made the
streets their playground.
Paddy would also spend a lot of
time at the public library meeting
friends and studying. He began his
career in London local government.
In his early 30s, Mr Clifford got a
job at the Invercargill County Coun-
cil and moved there with his wife
Maureen and their sons aged 5, 3
and 3 months. With no family in
New Zealand it was a big step for
the Cliffords and they became close
as a family.
While at the Invercargill council,
he was part of team that
reorganised four councils into one,
an interesting experience''.
In 1994, he became chief execu-
tive at Hurunui District Council,
based in Amberley.
In 2007, he was approached by a
consultant to consider applying for
the Palmerston North chief execu-
tive job. He had been to a conference
here and knew a former chief execu-
tive, but had not thought about
applying until approached.
It looked like a good opportunity
to work for a larger authority and
back into working for an urban
authority,'' he said.
And I've loved it ever since.''
Palmerston North has a bright
future -- the population is growing
and it has not been as adversely
affected by the recession as some
places, he said.
There's a lot of people that care
for one another.''
Mr Clifford, who is in his 50s, said
being chief executive of a large
council is a complex and diverse job.
While the council is often viewed as
one operation, there are about 60
different business activities within
it. Then there is the political dimen-
sion with elected members, the open
and transparent way council needs
to operate and the media interest.
I love working with people and
helping people achieve things. Help-
ing the councillors achieve their
vision for the city and enable my
staff -- and I've got good staff here --
help achieve what you can see in the
city today and what we are planning
for the future.''
A big focus for the council this
year is preparing the 10-year plan.
Mr Clifford said people should care
what is in this document as every
day people connect with the council
whether they know it or not.
They get up in the morning and
turn on the tap, flush the toilet,
drive on the road, walk on the foot-
path -- services that enable the com-
munity to exist and businesses to
Mr Clifford, a Christian, said he
views people as being on the same
level, whether they are Prince Wil-
liam, whom he has met, or David, a
homeless person in Amberley to
whom he brought cups of tea.
People deserve to be treated with
the same respect, not based on rank
or position, a belief Mr Clifford says
comes from his Irish background.
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