7 October 2022

Eurobodalla council's 'Sharpy' hangs up the high-vis after 38 years

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Warren Sharpe OAM 2021

Warren Sharpe OAM is retiring to spend more time with family. Photo: ESC.

After almost 38 years in the job, Eurobodalla Shire Council’s director of infrastructure is hanging up his high-vis.

Warren Sharpe AOM – ‘Sharpy’ to many – said it had been an incredible journey since starting as council’s assistant works engineer in 1985 straight out of uni.

“I was well educated but pretty green, so I turned to our experienced staff to soak in their extensive practical knowledge and experience, and then blended in my own expertise,” Warren said. “It was a great match that helped our team and my own learning.”

Warren rose rapidly through the ranks into senior engineering roles, becoming the technical services manager in 1996, works manager in 1999, and later group manager roads and recreation in 2006, which was retitled director in 2008.

“Over the years, I’ve had lots of different roles covering all areas of infrastructure. When I look at the team now I know our community will be well served in the future,” he said.

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Looking back over the decades, Warren can point to a long list of accomplishments, big and small, but also acknowledges the constraints of working in local government.

“We’re looking after $2 billion of infrastructure that our rate income cannot support alone so we have to be innovative, think laterally and leverage every dollar we can from the NSW and Australian governments to support our community,” he said.

“I love the Aussie cynicism and we’re the closest level of government to the people with expectations often exceeding what we can provide. But I’ve found the best way is to partner with our community and show we’re going to bat for them. We get lots of letters and notes from people thanking our team for what they do.

“Tight budgets mean you often need to be patient. For example, back in 1998 we knew it was logical that the caravan park couldn’t stay alongside the Moruya River due to flood risk. But it wasn’t until 2006 that we had money to build Riverside Park; transforming a messy and run-down site with lots of asbestos into a beaut community area with paths, seating, amphitheatre, amenity block and playground, now home to two popular weekly markets that bring thousands of people to town.

Warren Sharpe signing final plans

Warren Sharpe signing final plans. Photo: ESC.

“I’m proud to have been instrumental in the development of nationally-accredited training structures for our operational teams, creating hundreds of opportunities for local youth using our apprentice and cadet programs, and in driving diversity within the engineering sector.”

Warren has always been admired within his professional circle. However, it was as the local emergency management officer during the 2019-20 bushfires that he became better known to the community at large, moving heaven and earth to get done those things that needed doing.

“When we see the community pulling together in a disaster – well that’s resilience right there. That’s what should happen. There will never be enough fire trucks, enough emergency crews to protect every property, especially in a shire like ours. Residents really do need to get their properties prepared and disaster plans in place – that’s something I really want the community to take on board following the fires and floods since 2019,” Warren said.

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“Of course, government needs to do its bit. By partnering with others, we’ve made real progress around the resilience of local roads and bridges, water and sewerage systems, telecommunications, power supply and highways. Ensuring our alternate coastal routes are resilient is so important for future disasters as we will always need functional alternatives when the highway closes.”

When asked what’s next, Warren said he was effectively retiring, at least for now.

“I’m looking forward to spending time with my biggest supporter, my wife Rose, and our kids and grandkids as well as catching up with family and friends hardly seen over the last three years. And I hope to dust the fly rod off and head into the mountains for some quiet time. Then who knows what the future holds.”

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