When Samantha Ratley applied for the Col Mills Memorial Scholarship, she was looking for a professional development opportunity, but what she got was much more.
The former Gloucester High School student has been honoured with the Col Mills Memorial Award, chosen from hundreds of applicants from across the State. She was bestowed the award at the Stardust Local Government Awards dinner held at The Westin Sydney. The scholarship is made available specifically to younger NSW Local Government (LG) employees, under the age of 35, to support them in career development.
From the hundreds of applications, four finalists were chosen and sponsored to attend the Local Government Conference from June 19-21, hosted by the LG Professionals Australia NSW. The conference theme, Smart Councils Connected Communities was close to Samantha's heart with her application outlining she identified the need for improved communication within Narrabri Shire Council.
It was at the dinner that Samantha was announced one of the two winners for the NSW award, which will see her attend the LG Professionals National Congress and Business Expo in Darwin later this month, and in the running for the national Emerging Leader of The Year Award.
"It was great to be a finalist but I didn't think I'd win," Samantha said. "I was very shocked. It's very humbling as it's a peer review, decided upon by other under 35s in Local Government."
Samantha started out her career in local government straight out of high school when she was 17 years old.
"I started at the former Gloucester Shire Council as a trainee administration assistant in January 2005," Samantha recalled. "It was my first proper job."
Samantha's drive for professional development was evident early on as she worked her way into the finance department while undertaking a university degree.
In late 2013, she was offered the role as the senior finance officer at Narrabri Shire Council, and in 2016, she graduated from the University of New England with a Bachelor of Business with a double major in management and applied finance.
At the moment, Samantha is in a secondment position as a team leader rolling a new corporate information system designed to better connect the council with the community.
As for her future, Samantha is interested in a director role or maybe even the general manager position at some point in her career.
But for now, she's focused on improving the way council can use modern technology to communicate with the community, a project due to reach MidCoast Council in the near future.