Name: Karen Arnold
Occupation: City councillor and freelance communications specialist
Marital status: Divorced/single
Council experience: Councillor since 2013; council reporter for six years
Describe yourself in three words: Intelligent, honest, focused
Being able to trace her city roots back to her great-grandparents, Karen Arnold describes herself as a “daughter of Invercargill”, and apart from one year in Dunedin, she has lived in the city ever since.
Her introduction to local government was as civics reporter for The Southland Times.
An outspoken councillor since elected for the first time in 2013, one of her early comments was to declare it was “time to get rid of some of the old farts” around the council table.
She and incumbent mayor Tim Shadbolt have regularly locked horns, culminatinating in Ms Arnold suing him for defamation. The case is proceeding.
Why are you standing for mayor? Because I’m really passionate about the city and about local government and how it works, and I’ve identified a need for energetic, positive leadership, not just of the city, but of the council as well. The councillors need that. I’m in a state of my life where I’ve got the energy, ‘ve got the passion for the job, and I think I’ve got something positive to contribute.
Will you be a full-time mayor? Definitely. We have a mayor who has many commitments over and above his mayoralty, so quite often he seems distracted or not always up to play with issues. When you have a remuneration package in excess of $120,000 per year then people would expect a full time commitment to the job.
What position do you think the city is in? I think it is in a good position, knowing that potentially, with a bit of momentum, we can really start to achieve. A lot of people are pinning their hopes on the Southland Regional Development Strategy (SoRDS), which aims to add another 10,000 people by 2025. I think SoRDS could really kick-start the revitalisation of the inner city and the future of the city. But the city needs someone who is prepared to drive the future – who is committed to getting us across the line in terms of what SoRDS can give us.
What are three issues facing the incoming council, and why? I want a culture change in council. I think leadership-wise, the mayor and the chief executive [Richard King] have been a partnership for more than 20 years, and so there needs to be a fresh approach. We have some senior councillors as well who have been around the table for many, many years, and so there is a culture of “this is how we do things”. It needs a shake up – fresh eyes, fresh attitude and a fresh approach.
SoRDS is another issue. There are decisions which are going to have to be made soon into our new term.
The other issue which I think is quite crucial is we will be advertising for a new CEO within the next three years when his term expires. Whether Mr King applies again or not I don’t know, but we need to be prepared that within the next term we could have a new chief executive.
What would be one thing you would like to have achieved by the end of your term, and why? Can I give three? By the end of the first week I would like to have achieved a mayoral office with an actual desk and computer. Curently the mayor does not have that. Maybe he is not into desks or computers, but I am, because I think you need to have a proper working space to read things, check emails, accept telephone calls, and be present.
By the end of the first month I would want to get the beginnings of a new way of doing business, with clear expectations of the CEO, senior managers and senior councillors, so everyone is on the same page. And I think governance has to be strengthened.
Within the first three years I would like to think people have seen inner city development, that they are clear on [council] plans and commitment, and they know that when decisions are being made on their behalf, we genuinely considered them and their needs.