New chief of staff appointed in Wellington mayor Andy Foster’s office

Wellington mayor Andy Foster has got a new chief of staff after Sarah Owen quit last month.

Michael Algar started in the role yesterday.

Chief strategy and governance officer Stephen McArthur made the announcement in an email on Tuesday.

McArthur said Algar returned from Australia a couple of months ago after living there for 15 years.

Algar is described as an experienced governance and project management professional who has held senior roles at the New South Wales Department of Education, and the Royal Australian College of Physicians.

A number of years ago he worked in New Zealand for the Department of Internal Affairs as a ministerial adviser and an adviser on Crown Trusts.

“Michael will be making contact with Elected Members and senior staff over the next week or two. In the meantime please welcome Michael to the Wellington City Council”, McArthur said.

Owen was in the role for less than a year after starting the position in May.

She was previously the executive manager in former Christchurch mayor Sir Bob Parker’s office, starting in that role a month before the February 2011 earthquake.

More recently, she was employed as systems design manager at the Department of Conservation, and as a private secretary in the Beehive working on conservation policy.

Her last day in the office was April 23, before taking a new job as chief sustainability adviser at the Department of Conservation.

It has previously proven difficult to find staff for Foster’s office.

In May last year the Herald reported it appeared the council was having a tough time finding someone to bridge the gap between Foster and the media, for example.

The council first advertised the role of public affairs adviser to the mayor in November 2019, although an experienced contractor filled the position in the meantime before joining the Ministry of Health as a senior adviser.

That role continued to be advertised on more than one occasion and recruitment agencies shoulder-tapped several individuals, only to draw a blank.

John Bullock was eventually hired as a media adviser and remains in the role.

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