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Busy New Chief Executive

Monday, December 2nd 2002 - 20:00 UTC
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The new Falkland Islands Chief Executive, 50-year-old Chris Simpkins, who takes over from Doctor Michael Blanch next March, has spent a busy few days in London preparing for his new post. He met staff of the London Falklands Government Office and was briefed by Dr Blanch, who was visiting the UK.

In an interview with Harold Briley, Mr Simpkins, a local government expert, said he relishes what he calls "an amazing challenge in a fascinating role and a unique environment". He said: "The post fulfils many ambitions -- adventure, travel and an opportunity to promote a unique country with tremendous potential".

He is excited at the prospect of developing the Falklands organic food potential now that the Islands have taken an essential step towards becoming the world's first officially designated organic country with the European Union's recent approval of the new abattoir. He says: "The Falkland Islands clean, green image is eminently marketable", though he acknowledges the obstacles, not least the long supply route to the markets of Europe.

He brings to the post expertise in the diverse agricultural environment in Lincolnshire where he has been Chief Executive of South Holland District Council for 14 years. He is believed to have been the youngest local government chief executive in the United Kingdom when appointed at the age of 36.

Encouragement from wife and finance official

He says he was urged to apply for the Falklands post by his wife and encouraged by the experience of his former Finance Director in South Holland, Keith Padgett, who moved to the Falklands as Deputy Financial Secretary, and spoke in glowing terms about life there.

Mr Simpkins' wife, Denise, is an education adviser involved in projects to raise public awareness of higher education opportunities for those aged over nineteen who have missed out on education earlier, giving them a second chance to learn and to realise their full potential. Denise enthused about their brief visit to the Falklands. "We had an amazing, wonderful week, seeing the wildlife and meeting so many friendly people".

Mr Simpkins' two children both want to become doctors. His daughter, Carley, is in the final year of her medical degree at the University of Wales in Cardiff, and his son, Gareth, who already has a Psychology Degree from Bristol University, plans to study medicine after travelling the world in a journey that has so far taken him to Brazil, Argentina, Chile and New Zealand.

Walking the dog -- surfing the waves!

The Falklands are an ideal environment for the Simpkins' hobbies. "We enjoy simple pleasures", he said. "We enjoy wildlife and walking with our dog, Mac, an Irish setter, who'll be arriving by sea. We enjoy wide open spaces -- and you don't get much wider than the Falkland Islands".

Chris Simpkins also hopes to find time to indulge in another of his hobbies ? wind surfing. He'll find he won't get much stronger winds or rougher surf than in the South Atlantic!

His new post could hardly be a greater contrast to his present job. From serving 38 councillors and a population of 75,000 in 285 square miles of mainly rural Lincolnshire, he will be answerable to only eight Councillors in the Falklands and a much smaller population of only 2,400, but in a vastly greater area of 4,700 square miles.

Rural Action Zone pioneer

However, there are similarities in the promotion of agriculture, horticulture and food processing. His experience in Lincolnshire is apt. He created the United Kingdom's First Rural Action Zone, to attract increased resources to rural development. He says the aim has been to break down barriers between different organisations to overcome the inequalities of rural life and collectively use their finances in a more intelligent way for real collaboration. This pioneering idea is being increasingly adopted in other regions throughout Britain.

He left school at 18, and studied in own time to gain a Diploma in Municipal Administration. His Falklands appointment is for three years with an option for a two-year extension if invited.

The Chairman of the Appointments Panel, Councillor Richard Cockwell, said: "We were very impressed by Chris Simpkins. He will bring considerable experience to managing government". The former Governor, Mr Donald Lamont said: "He is well equipped to take forward with councillors their plans for modernisation and development of the economy"

Harold Briley, (MP) London

Categories: Falkland Islands.

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