After a years-long search, Orkney council finally saw its new chief executive take up his post.
Oliver Reid took up the council’s top job as of Monday and, while only a day-and-half into his new role, he describes it as his “dream job.”
Speaking this afternoon, Mr Reid said he wouldn’t have sought a chief executive role at just any council area and the fact that it was in Orkney played a key role in applying for the job.
However, Mr Reid will certainly have his work cut out for him as the council deals with significant challenges in its social work department, continues its goal of getting new ferries, and embarks on ambitious projects such as the harbours masterplan.
He described his first day at the council as “a whirlwind” of meeting staff and elected members.
What’s first for Orkney Islands Council’s new chief executive?
Asked what was first on his to-do list, he wouldn’t go into specifics, but said he will continue the “journey of improvement” the council has been on under his predecessor, John Mundell.
Mr Reid said: “There are a range of national challenges and pressures that are affecting all councils at the moment.
“These are also impacting Orkney – both in our communities and in our council. I’m still getting fully briefed on those and how they’re playing out here.
“I’m also aware of some of the local challenges facing Orkney council. Some of these are quite sensitive and emotive issues.
“What I am aware of is that the council has been on a really big journey of improvement and that is ongoing.
“I’m committed to continuing that and bringing my own leadership and support to the response the council has made as we take that forward.
“My first day was a whirlwind, but it’s been wonderful.
“I need to spend more time getting to know Orkney better. I’d like to focus on visiting communities and services to understand their needs and aspirations better in the coming months.”
Asked if he’s got a tour of the islands planned he said “probably several.”
“I would like to go around all of Orkney,” he said.
“I’d like to visit all the wards with the elected members and service managers and get as many views on the challenges facing the council as possible.”
Predecessor leaving role with ‘great affection’ for Orcadians
Mr Reid takes over from John Mundell, who was only supposed to be interim chief executive for around six months.
However, the pandemic and a prolonged recruitment period for a new chief exec saw Mr Mundell stay in the job for over three years.
Last November, Mr Reid was announced as Mr Mundell’s successor after a fourth recruitment round.
While the handover period is still underway, Mr Reid was asked if there were any words of advice Mr Mundell had given him.
He said his predecessor was leaving the county with “a great affection for Orcadians and the council.”
Mr Reid said he feels lucky to have had an interim who had been both “effective and committed.”
Mr Reid arrives in Orkney after eight years with Renfrewshire council, holding a chief officer role dealing with civil contingencies, public protection, and public health as he describes it.
Oliver Reid brings 30 years of experience to chief executive role
He has 30 years of experience in local government, which began in the Perth and Kinross district.
Mr Reid grew up in Fife and Edinburgh. He studied public administration at Strathclyde University, also gaining a master’s in the subject from Dundee University.
Mr Reid arrives in Orkney ahead of his wife, Lorna – a designer. He has a daughter studying in Dundee.
Asked about the qualities he brings to the role, he pointed to his track record of developing partnerships that benefit communities.
Mr Reid said such partnership working is the best way of addressing the challenges communities face.
He added that a key part of the chief executive role will lie in being a champion for both the council and Orkney’s communities wherever decisions are made that affect them.
He said he feels “immensely privileged” to be given the opportunity to do this.
For him, he said, “this is a dream job. It’s a unique role in a unique location.”
‘A unique role in a unique location’
Mr Reid was also asked if he’d ever been to Orkney ahead of the council’s recruitment process. He hadn’t but says it was a key fact in his applying for the job in the first place.
He said: “I was familiar with it from afar but hadn’t visited.
“In looking at Orkney and choosing this kind of role, it’s not a job I would want to do anywhere. Orkney was quite a specific opportunity for me.
“I see in Orkney a welcoming community, a vibrant culture, people with a strong sense of place and identity.
“These are all appealing attributes in a community if you want to be a chief executive in a local authority.
“There are very few local authorities across Scotland that offer that.
“Obviously, Orkney offers a fantastic quality of life in one of the world’s top locations.
“It’s a combination of the job and Orkney as a place that brought me here. I want to do the best I can.”