10 Questions: Sheena Ramsey

October 2, 2019

Sheena Ramsey is chief executive of Gateshead Council. She joined the authority in February 2017, having previously headed up Worcester City and Knowsley councils, where she led a number of initiatives to increase employment, attract investment in infrastructure and bring about the transformation of town centres through private investment. She was also assistant chief executive at Newcastle City Council from 1999 to 2005. Sheena is the lead local authority chief executive for transport in the North East, a member of the NewcastleGateshead Initiative board and is clerk to the Tyne and Wear Lieutenancy

What was your first break in business?

My biggest break came as I returned from maternity leave during my time at Newcastle City Council. There was a new chief executive and he wanted me to work with him to review the whole organisation. It was the biggest learning curve of my life. I had a two-year-old and a baby with croup, and I was doing a 100- mile round trip each day.

What did you want to be growing up?

I wanted to do something involving farming or the countryside.

What attracted you to your current role?

This is my dream job. I had always wanted to work for Gateshead and thought I had missed my chance when I left the North East. When I saw it advertised, I thought it was meant to be. I didn’t tell anyone that I had applied for it. It was when my mum was still alive, and I went to see her after I had been offered the job. I asked her if she had heard about the new chief executive at Gateshead Council. When she said no, I said, ‘well, it’s me!’

What is your organisation’s mission?

To make Gateshead a place where everyone thrives; this places people right at the heart of the council’s decision-making process. We need everyone in the borough to be able to fulfil their true potential and create the conditions for them to do so, particularly if we’re going to be a sustainable council, whether that’s employment opportunities, training or education. We also need to be business-friendly, so companies want to stay here or relocate here. We need to have a high skills base. This is about being ambitious for Gateshead and in order to do that, everyone needs to be able to fulfil their potential.

How do you get the best out of your staff?

By listening to them, trying to understand what motivates them, recognising they have far better ideas than me and giving them wings. It’s about accountable autonomy. Be clear about what you want people to do, then let them do it.

What has been your career highlight?

I’ve had the honour of many but going to the Gateshead Recovery Partnership ambassador celebration event has got to be right up there. People who have experienced some of the most devastating challenges and come through them is inspiring for all of us. It was humbling to be in the same room as them.

What has been your biggest challenge?

My biggest – and current – work challenge is overseeing delivery of the next phase of regeneration of Gateshead Quays. It includes a £260 million events destination complete with 12,500 seat arena, conference and exhibition centre, hotels, beautiful green spaces and improved links through to Gateshead town centre. It will act as the catalyst for renewed economic growth in Gateshead and will be a game-changer, not just for the region, but beyond.

Who or what inspires you?

Mainly people’s stories. People come to Gateshead to do a really, really good job and people genuinely want to do that. That’s certainly my experience in Gateshead.

What are your organisation’s short and long-term goals?

Short-term we need to be more outward facing, open for business and visible. We need to reduce bureaucracy and make it easy for people to live and work in Gateshead. Long-term it’s about creating a sustainable economy with people really, really flourishing in the area.

How do you achieve a good work/life balance?

Having good people around me and a dream team in the office. And by not falling for the belief you need to be in the office for 12 hours a day.

Gateshead Council

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