Meet our team

Our SOLGM team is made up of some pretty amazing people with great skills, keen to help promote innovation and excellence in local government management enabling local government to better serve their local communities.

Karen Thomas

    Chief Executive, SOLGM

Karen has been our Chief Executive since September 2011 and has responsibility for fulfilling SOLGM’s vision to promote and support professional excellence in local government. Over this time she has introduced leadership development for the sector, grown the membership and ensured that guidance and practice advice is updated regularly. Karen has established extensive local government networks overseas and regularly utilises these contacts to the benefit of the New Zealand local government sector.

Karen’s previous roles have included Chief Executive at the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners and Regional Assistant Commissioner at the State Services Commission where she led the development of the proposal to establish the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG), a world-leading educational institution.

Karen is a Chartered Member of the New Zealand Institute of Directors. She has been on several boards including Refugee Trauma Recovery, AFS Intercultural Programmes where she was the Deputy Chair and she chaired Capital Swim Club Board for four years. She is a Swimming NZ qualified referee, and her other interests include reading and genealogy research.

Marian Donaldson

    Executive Assistant to the Chief Executive

Marian is an experienced executive assistant with a strong background in local and central government. Her most recent roles have been with DIA and with the PGF being part of the set-up of the Provincial Development Unit.

Marian is the Executive Assistant to our Chief Executive and SOLGM Executive committee. She is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Chief Executive’s office and making sure it all happens.

Her whanau are her everything and in her spare time Marian enjoys watching rugby, horseracing and ballet.

Kate Macnaught

    Manager, Sector Improvement, SOLGM

Kate is our Manager, Sector Improvement. Kate is responsible for developing the Well-beings Indicator Project and overseeing the Vote 2019 project as well as other developments in the sector Improvement area for SOLGM.

Kate’s previous roles have included Policy Manager at LGNZ where she worked on Better Local Government Reforms, the Productivity Review on Regulation, as well as other policy areas. Prior to that she was Strategy and Policy Manager at New Plymouth District Council.

Kate came to New Zealand fourteen years ago where she was Regional Head of Business and Enterprise in the Regional Development Agency for the North East of England and Chief Executive of the Northern Business Forum.

Kate has been a Director on several Boards in the UK and set up Excellence North East to run the Business Excellence Assessment Programme using the EFQM Excellence Model.

In her spare time Kate enjoys music, reading and good food.

Raymond Horan

    Chief Advisor, SOLGM

Raymond re-joined SOLGM in June 2014 taking on a new role, Sector Improvement Manager. He has spent most of the last 20 years in local government related roles, most recently with the Department of Internal Affairs.

He describes his job as two-thirds providing assistance to the local government sector and one-third providing advice to central government on local government matters. His ambition is to help develop a Local Government Act that doesn’t require changes every 18 months. He asks that you wish him well with this task.

Rebecca Moore

    Manager, Finance and Administration

Bex is our Manager, Finance and Administration and brings with her over 12 years of experience working in similar financial and administrative roles.

Her background is in the implementation of financial accounting systems, the development of business processes, and establishing quality business analytics and monthly reporting.

Bex has a passion for facts and figures and enjoys to providing seamless financial support to the SOLGM team.

Jane Wilson

    Instructional Designer, SOLGM

Jane is our Instructional Designer. Her background is in learning and development where she has held a number of roles in the government sector, including time as a self-employed contractor. Jane is passionate about instructional design, particularly in the digital e-learning space, and enjoys exploring new concepts and ways of doing things to engage learners.

In her spare time Jane is busy providing a taxi service for her two teenagers! She also enjoys interior design and walking her two dogs Delilah and Gypsy.

Amy Waugh

    Senior Advisor, Membership and Communications

Amy joined SOLGM in July 2018 having recently returned to her hometown after spending the last decade working in marketing roles around New Zealand and a four year stint in Melbourne.

Her experience spans time working across a wide range of industries in both private and public sectors. Amy enjoys working in the ever-changing field of marketing and is enjoying transforming SOLGM’s marketing and communications to be more digitally-focused.

Outside of work Amy loves spending time with friends and family, travelling, going for walks and getting brunch at her favourite café - a good latte is a must!

Mubashir Mukhtar

    Data Scientist

Mubashir joined SOLGM in September 2018 as our Data Scientist. Prior to working at SOLGM, Mubashir was working as a Research & Monitoring Advisor at Ashburton District Council.

Mubashir’s role at SOLGM is to support the Sector Improvement Team on the data side. Currently, his main focus is on developing local government community wellbeing indicators, along with a comprehensive data warehouse and reporting dashboards to be shared with the sector.

Outside of work, Mubashir enjoys exploring Wellington with family, learning more about data science, and doing community work.

Jenny Spencer

    Acting Manager, Workforce Leadership

Jenny is excited to join the team at SOLGM having previously worked in local government at Masterton District Council.

Her background is in Human Resources, with experience in central and local government as well as the private sector. More recently Jenny has shared her skills as a volunteer with Volunteer Service Abroad in Papua New Guinea and Tonga, an experience that has inspired her to want to continue to make a difference in local communities. Jenny is passionate about leadership and it’s importance for building strong organisations that have people at their heart.

Outside of work Jenny loves walking and getting out and about with her husband in the Wellington area, as well as sharing the company of good friends.

Ann Thomson

    Manager, Communications and Partnerships

Ann oversees SOLGM's communications, marketing and partnership activities, as well as our major events, the Annual Summit and Gala Dinner & The Marketplace.

Ann is a communications, event management and stakeholder engagement professional with broad experience across sectors including tertiary education and the public sector.

In her spare time Ann enjoys spending time with family and friends, good food, films, music, travel and reading.

Eilidh Siller

    Advisor, Workforce Leadership

Eilidh joined SOLGM in March 2019 as part of the Professional Development Team. Originally from Scotland, Eilidh came to Wellington to get back to reality and into the world of work after having spent 5 months travelling South East Asia.

Previously Eilidh worked in the travel industry in a marketing role which enabled her to gain experience in brand management, developing strategies and building strong relationships with people from all over the world. She is looking forward to her new role at SOLGM and the learning experience that comes along with it!

Eilidh enjoys eating out at restaurants on weekends, live music and is a qualified gymnastics coach.

Susan Haniel

    Senior Advisor, Sector Improvement

Susan is the Senior Advisor for the Sector Improvement team. Her passion is to encourage and promote quality Local Government practices and to see communities flourish.

Susan has a bachelor’s degree in commerce and administration and has completed resource management law study at Victoria University. Since graduating she has spent six years in committee advisory roles, most recently in Democratic Services at Hutt City Council. Before pursuing her degree, she worked in the health sector as a registered comprehensive nurse and as Team Leader in a coronary care unit.

Her personal interests include trapping pests with her local “Predator Free” group, playing the guitar and travelling to interesting destinations.

Chelsey Reid

    Advisor, Sector Improvement

Chelsey joined SOLGM in August 2019 and brings a wealth of experience in the development and not-for-profit sectors.

Originally from Canada and having lived in East and South Asia, she now calls Wellington home. Chelsey recently completed her Masters in Development Studies from Victoria University of Wellington, focusing on participatory practice and human development. She is passionate about connecting people with the policies that affect them and particularly enjoys working in the well-being space.

Outside of work Chelsey loves going on adventures in the outdoors, rock climbing, having dinner with friends, and watching films.

Kevin Lavery

    General Manager, Sector Consulting

Kevin led our work on the local government response to Covid-19. He is now working on the water reform agenda. Kevin was the Chief Executive of Wellington City Council for 7 years and prior to that had CEO roles in England with Cornwall Council, an amalgamation of seven councils, and the City of Newcastle upon Tyne. Kevin also spent 13 years in the private sector, including a spell at Price Waterhouse Consulting. He also set up a successful tech start-up and ran a number of large divisions of FTSE 100 companies.

Kevin is married to Catherine and they have two teenage sons, Daniel and Jack. He spends his leisure time walking their two dogs, watching movies, playing masters football and mountain biking.

Benjamin Swale

    Advisor, Brand and Channels Management

Ben joined SOLGM in November 2020 and is responsible for maintaining our website and social media as well as compiling email newsletters and other publications.

Ben has previously worked in language education, tourism and cultural events management. He is currently studying public sector communication in his spare time and has been excited to discover just how much of a difference local government makes to the lives of all New Zealanders.

His interests include doing conservation work, classical music, China, exploring new places, keeping fit and spending time in the outdoors.

Lauren Hourigan

    Administrator, Membership and Events

Lauren joined SOLGM as the Administrator, Membership and Events when she moved from Greater Wellington Regional Council in November 2020.

Previously she worked for Accor Hotels before going on to gain a bachelor’s degree in Management and Human Resource Management & Employment Relations from Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington. Lauren's passionate about productivity and believes that people are at the heart of everything we do.

Outside of work, Lauren loves travelling with friends and family, reading and spending time with her animals.

Victoria Sidaway

    Administrator, Accounts and Systems

Victoria is our new Administrator, Accounts and Systems. She is responsible for administrating the LGJobs vacancy board and the Discussion Groups, as well as providing general administrative support to the wider team.

Victoria’s background is in providing reception duties and administrative support within the financial services industry. She is passionate about providing superb customer service and seamless support to the sector.

In her spare time she loves spending time with friends and family, going for weekend getaways and adventures to explore our wonderful country.