City of Ballarat chief executive Justine Linley believes one of the most exciting aspects of living in Ballarat is its sense of opportunity.
Ms Linley has been based in Ballarat for the past two years and the western region since 2003 after moving from Melbourne.
In that time she has been a regional director for Regional Development Victoria and boss of the Northern Grampians Shire before starting her role as City of Ballarat CEO in May 2016.
Although born and raised in Werribee, Ms Linley said her mother came from Ballarat and her grandmother worked at Sebastopol Library for more than 25 years.
“I have a very strong family connection to Ballarat and spent a lot of my childhood here on weekends and school holidays,” she said.
“I can remember Ballarat pre-mall and I can remember its changing landscape.
“It has always been a little bit cold but I sort of like that and the fact that people really are friendly. There is a welcoming aspect to Ballarat that I don’t think you get in many places in Victoria.”
Ms Linley’s first local government job was with the City of Melbourne, but the aim was to eventually live and work in a regional area.
In fact, the regional theme runs in the family, with her husband working in Ararat, a daughter in Geelong and a daughter moving to Stawell.
Her work with the Northern Grampians Shire Council has prepared Ms Linley for her current role, especially the realisation of just how crucial it is to have good services such as health care along with cultural and sporting attractions.
“That experience has impressed upon me the importance of us being strong in this city,” she said.
“It’s the real understanding of the links between all of the regional councils and how they do look to Ballarat as a core capital city that it provides those services.
“Being part of a community where you needed to think about where it was you were going to go for health services or support, we didn’t think about going further afield to Melbourne, it was always Ballarat.”
With only 14 female CEOs out of the 79 councils in Victoria, Ms Linley said it was important to have diversity in local government.
Ms Linley is only the second female City of Ballarat CEO, with Janet Dore the first, something she said was telling in light of the organisation’s long history.
“To be able to bring a different viewpoint and a woman’s viewpoint to the role I think is really important,” Ms Linley said.
“What really drives me is finding the best ways in making a community prosperous, healthy and engaged and wanting to be part of the town rather than to leave it.”
While Ms Linley loves being able to support her beloved Western Bulldogs at Mars Stadium, makes the most of the Art Gallery of Ballarat and Her Majesty’s and understands the importance of the town’s mining history, she said Ballarat’s gold was really in its people.