Meet your City of Melbourne councillors
Lord Mayor Sally Capp
Elected leaders might expect a few surprises once they’re voted into office, but who could predict a once-in-a-century pandemic?
Lord Mayor Sally Capp quickly became a key figure in managing the city’s response, a period she says was defined by “ingenuity and collaboration”.
‘It really was a time of collaboration and I’ve got more telephone numbers in my book than I ever had before,’ the Lord Mayor said.
‘I can call colleagues in state and federal government. We see efforts to bring Melbourne back better right across the private sector, community sector and cultural institutions. They’re all pitching it to say “what can we do?”.’
Indeed a typical week for the Lord Mayor features numerous meetings with a huge range of Melburnians and delegates from interstate and overseas.
‘This morning I was with a small business owner hearing their great ideas to attract new customers. I applaud people for every single day making the effort to find ways to keep their doors open and people employed and customers coming in. That is so Melbourne.’
She’d recently worked the room at an arts festival launch encircled by acrobats and singers; welcomed an American climate policy foundation impressed with City of Melbourne initiatives; and taken a look at Melbourne Fashion Week planning.
‘Ambassadors, residents groups, it could not be more varied. I see the catering staff here at Town Hall at six in the morning preparing beautiful food for lunches at Town Hall. I’m an early starter and see the city awakening. We are a very big part of that.’
She believes the motivation for running for Lord Mayor held her in good stead for helping manage the city’s COVID response and ongoing recovery. Melbourne was the hardest hit city in Australia, with long lockdowns emptying our streets and devastating the local economy – creating major challenges for the city and the Victorian Government, who worked closely together on revitalisation initiatives.
Reflecting on the past few years, she said: ‘There were certainly lots of surprises about being Lord Mayor. I think it’s important for everyone who takes on a leadership role to have a real passion for something, because there are going to be lots of challenges and the passion keeps you focused and feeling driven.
‘For me, that passion was for Melbourne. I’d had many roles in the past where I’d represented Melbourne or been involved in issues about the city, in roles such as CEO of the Committee for Melbourne, and representation and trade investment roles such as Agent-General for Victoria.’
One of the most satisfying aspects of her role, she said, is making a difference at the local level for Melbourne’s neighbourhoods.
‘Of course the list of things to do never ends and that can be overwhelming at times. I really focus on the things we can do which helps move me away from the things I can’t get done,’ she said.
Asked what she’s most proud of midway through her term as Lord Mayor, she singles out ‘the whole response of City of Melbourne to the pandemic. The Queen Victoria Market renewal was at an absolute stalemate and that is now moving ahead. Also, I’m so proud the city understands we can play a major role in helping people experiencing homelessness by dedicating a building to support them through the Make Room program.’
The Greenline Project to transform the river’s north bank ‘has excited and galvanised people’, she said.
‘It’s moved beyond just my passion project – it has a business case, initial funding and multiple agencies working on it. I’m also really excited about Power Melbourne and the way we can change the paradigm on renewable energy in cities.
‘This is another reflection for me about the City of Melbourne.
‘We are brave, we are happy to step into the unknown and to say this is important and we should give it a try.
‘I think that sense of taking some risks because it’s worth it, because it could and should lead us to better outcomes, that is extraordinary. I used to look at government as a very risk-averse, status quo kind of body, and I look at City of Melbourne and I think, wow, this is an organisation with people with the courage to do the right thing. I think that reflects where our citizens expect us to be.
‘Look at what we’ve done on the change the date discussion around 26 January – we had the debate, we’ve done the work. These are difficult conversations and they’re challenging but they’re important and we take a stand on these things which I think is fantastic.’
Meetings, conversations, decision-making continue apace in her life as there’s much still to do, together with all councillors and staff, she said.
‘We need to keep delivering on our essential services, to be a cleaner city, and to take bigger aspirational roles in important issues like climate change, being a greener city; and I think ultimately, following the pandemic experience, it’s about being a busier city. Melbourne can be a magnet for students, residents, investors, business owners, workers, creatives – whatever your personal passions or professional pursuits are, you can do them here in Melbourne.’