James Holyman has stared down looming catastrophic emergencies and embraced the resilience of rural communities for much of his life.
As a Victorian Country Fire Authority volunteer for 24 years who participated in the Black Saturday, Great Divide and Linton bushfires, the recently appointed Director of Corporate and Community at Port Pirie Regional Council is not intimidated by a challenge.
Growing up in Launceston, Tasmania, he studied his first degree there – an arts degree in environmental design which focused on architecture – before moving to Melbourne.
With a further four degrees covering business risk, management, administration and a brief stint at Harvard University studying local and state governments under his belt, he moved into many varied roles in Victoria.
Following positions in finance and management at many organisations including Ansett Australia, Victorian Metropolitan Fire Brigade and the Taxi Services Commission Victoria, his CFA experiences inspired him to move to the country.
“My shift out of statutory authorities was really about working for and with community,” James said.
“In my experiences on the CFA board where I would be out two or more times a month attending brigades, opening stations or presenting medals or completing truck hand-overs … I found the type of people that I liked to interact with were in those regional and rural environments”.
Away from the throes of his corporate role, James said he shared a love of many sports including AFL, rugby union, cricket, tennis and basketball.
Not even a dual knee reconstruction could stop the basketball fanatic from hitting the court as a wheelchair basketballer.
His involvement in wheelchair basketball extended to refereeing, where he became a qualified A-grade wheelchair basketball referee.
Despite only starting his role with PPRC one month ago, he said there was one clear highlight so far.
“I love Port Pirie and particularly the people,” he said.
“Since I have been here I have been to places like Port Broughton, Port Germein, Weeroona Island, Fisherman’s Bay, Koolunga, Redhill, Laura, Melrose, Wirrabara, through the Port Germein Gorge … I am really getting a good feel across the community”.
He was excited to be a part of Port Pirie’s future, and said the sports precinct and city upgrade projects would provide many opportunities for the region.
“They are forward-thinking projects and I see some great opportunities in the area moving forward as we build and strengthen the community.”