Shetland Islands Council has named Mark Boden, former corporate director of Wiltshire Council, as its new chief executive.
Following interviews with five candidates on Friday, the appointment was rubber-stamped at a private council meeting this afternoon. Mr Boden left Wiltshire Council in December, and it is hoped he will be able to take up the £100,000-a-year post at the beginning of October.
Mr Boden, whose professional background is as a lawyer, has a long career in local government dating back to 1980, including a decade as chief executive of Kennet District Council in Devizes. He was part of the team that created a unified Wilshire County Council.
During his time at Kennet, Mr Boden gained experience of both an independent political environment and a sparsely populated rural area. He will be moving to Shetland with his wife Angela, with whom he has a 23-year-old son, and says he considers his new post an “exciting opportunity in a unique, attractive and interesting place”.
The 54-year-old said that while he did not want to “downplay” the financial challenges facing the SIC, nor did he want to “over-dramatise” the situation.
The local authority needs to find savings of around £30 million a year, but Mr Boden pointed out that the need for cutbacks was “just part of the landscape of the public sector” and “you couldn’t go anywhere else and avoid it”.
“There’s lots of things to be done, but I’m quite confident these are challenges the council and its partners will be able to meet, and in a few years’ time the council will be in good shape and making its contribution to keeping the Shetland Islands in good shape,” he told The Shetland Times.
During a three-day visit to the islands as part of last week’s interview process, Mr Boden said he had met senior figures from other key organisations including NHS Shetland, Shetland Recreational Trust, BP and the police.
Despite the prospect of huge cutbacks, he was upbeat about the islands’ overall economic future.
“I’m really excited by the opportunities in Shetland – renewables, oil and gas, decommissioning, superfast broadband and the opportunities around all of that,” he said.
“I’m really impressed by the work the partners do, and the council just looks like a really good bunch of people with some great opportunities – it’s going to be an interesting and exciting place to work.”
Mr Boden added that he preferred a “collegiate” style of management where “everyone is involved in what’s going on, everyone is able to contribute”. He wants to delegate as much as possible to experts in different departments.
Although four of the five councils he has worked with have been party political in nature, he did spend 10 years working with an independent local authority.
Mr Boden’s approach will be to ensure that all members understand and are fully informed about the business of the council. He hopes to strike up enough of a rapport with all 22 councillors so that each “feels they know me well enough and have a good enough relationship to ring me up whenever they’ve got an issue they want to raise”.
His leisure interests include hill walking and history. He has served 28 years in the Territorial Army and was a commandant in the Army Cadet Force for six years. He is involved in voluntary youth work and is a trustee of two service charities.
SIC political leader Gary Robinson, who chaired the appointments panel which gave Mr Boden the nod over candidates including two current SIC directors, said: “Mark Boden impressed the panel with his experience, knowledge and passion for Shetland. He combines experience and innovation, and has extensive experience which will enable the council to keep on track to deliver its ambitious plans.”
Mr Boden will succeed Alistair Buchan, who will return to Orkney imminently following a two-year loan.
Convener Malcolm Bell said there were “some difficult years ahead” and he was “delighted we have been able to attract someone of Mark’s calibre”.