“We must focus on the positives that bind us as communities together and build on that. There should not be any silos to create the impression that some are more important than others,” says Dean O’Neill, newly appointed Municipal Manager of the Overstrand.
O’Neill has had a packed schedule since he took over the reins from Coenie Groenewald on 2 November. “I have been familiarising myself with the urgent tasks at hand and I have completed a tour of all the municipal areas, where I met and engaged with the employees. I am in the fortunate position of having been involved in the annual evaluation of the Overstrand’s Municipal Manager and senior officials, so I have insight into how the municipality operates and what is expected of me,” he says.
O’Neill was born and raised in the small town of O’Kiep, some 10 kilometres from Springbok in Namaqualand. “After I matriculated I enrolled in a civil engineering course at the Cape Peninsula Technicon and then took up a position as an engineering technician at the Vredendal Municipality.
“It was during my tenure at Vredendal and later at the Matzikama municipalities that the bug to follow a career in public administration bit me. I attained a Master’s degree in Public Administration and am pleased to be one of only a handful of Accredited Municipal Managers in the country.”
For the past seven years O’Neill was the Municipal Manager at the Cape Agulhas Municipality. “Taking up this position in the Overstrand is a big step for me and my family. The Overstrand Municipality is regarded as one of the best in the country and I feel honoured to be a part of this entity,” says O’Neill, who will be settling in Sandbaai at the end of the month. He will be joined by his wife of 26 years, Lana. The couple have two children, Nicole, who is busy writing her matric exams, and Sean, who has just completed his university studies.
“The main goal for me over the short and medium term is to create an environment in which people enjoy working, and also where the public feels welcome and appreciated. We are all public servants and we must offer only our best to the residents of our towns. And this goes for all our towns. The idea should not exist that one town is better than the other because of its size. All our towns and residents are equally important and deserve only the best service possible, delivered in a financially prudent way,” he states.
O’Neill says he has never developed an appetite for golf or other ball games and would much rather spend his precious leisure hours with his family, working in the garden or reading a book.
He concludes by saying that the role of a municipal manager is to act as a buffer between the council and the administration. “It is of the utmost importance that the municipal manager and the mayor have a good relationship in order for the process to work. At an administrative level, the buck stops with me.
“Politics has no place in the administration. It is the role of council to create policy and the work of the administration to execute it. There has to be a high level of trust between the administration and the council. If there is trust, the environment will be happy, positive and rewarding – and that is what I want for our municipality.”