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River City Renaissance: Heather Barclay

CEO Heather Barclay’s transformative vision for the Rural City of Murray Bridge is steering the region toward renewed prosperity, through strategic partnerships and community-focused development.

Along the idyllic banks of the Murray River in South Australia lies Murray Bridge, a dynamic regional city currently experiencing a surge in economic growth.

At its heart is Heather Barclay, CEO of the Rural City of Murray Bridge, who is spearheading a transformative vision of partnership and renewed prosperity to the region.

"Our council has basically one catchcry and it’s about thriving communities," says Barclay, who first joined the rural city’s council staff six years ago as General Manager of Assets and Infrastructure.

"Both the elected council and the administration are very passionate about ensuring that we have a role in building and maintaining thriving communities at the Rural City of Murray Bridge."

Local Government Experience

Drawing on her extensive background in management and departmental leadership, Barclay took on the role of CEO for the council just last year, bringing her decades of experience in local government to the executive table.

Despite the potential for enthusiasm to naturally dwindle over time, Barclay remains dedicated to fostering community cohesion and achieving positive outcomes, especially within the rural setting, where, as she points out, proximity to residents is unparalleled compared to metropolitan roles.

"Having lived in cities, and lived and worked in regional and rural local governments, working in a regional setting just feels a lot closer to the people," she reveals.

"I’ve got such a great opportunity to be a part of leading and making a difference to support this community in its growth trajectory."

Regional cities present a fantastic chance to build strong community relationships at all sorts of levels, and in turn make a difference in people’s lives, she adds.

"So to be able to come to the Rural City of Murray Bridge as the CEO, I’ve got such a great opportunity to be a part of leading and making a difference to support this community in its growth trajectory," she explains.

And it’s a growth trajectory that’s certainly showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Growing Fast

Situated less than an hour’s drive from Adelaide via a major highway, Murray Bridge is attracting significant interest from public and private investors alike.

The South Australian Government recently identified it as one of the fastest-growing satellite cities to the state capital, further underscoring just how key the river city is being considered in the broader development of the region.

As Barclay explains, this growth seems almost inevitable, given the appealing lifestyle and geographical qualities that define Murray Bridge.

"It’s a place where people can live, people can have a great river lifestyle, they can have a job, their children can go to school here, they can have a university education, and they’re still only 36 minutes from Adelaide," she says. "So it’s got everything going for it."

"Spry Civil has developed a great relationship with Heather Barclay and the greater Council team over the last six years by working together to deliver significant projects for our community. Barclay has a practical and strategic outlook on business and providing the best results for our community and is primed to lead this region, encouraging community engagement and development." – Sam Rasheed, Owner and Director, Spry Holdings


Barclay’s strategic approach to fostering positive relationships with dozens of local contractors and suppliers has also been pivotal to stewarding Murray Bridge’s recent wave of prosperity and growth.

One such partner is Spry Civil Construction, a local family-owned and operated business that has operated in the region for more than 40 years. The company is spearheading several infrastructure projects for the Rural City of Murray Bridge, including footpath enhancements and road construction, reflecting Barclay’s heart for council to prioritize contracting to local businesses whenever possible.

"One of the things that we introduced a couple of years ago here at the Rural City of Murray Bridge in particular, in terms of suppliers and contractors, is that we absolutely have a focus on local," she insists.

"We are in a good position where we have really good civil contractors within the Rural City of Murray Bridge and close by, and we have built strong partnerships with them certainly, in the past few years."

Keeping it Local

As with any rural and regional community, if public money is spent locally, the money stays in the community, Barclay says.

"And the benefits that we see from that, in particular, is that those supplier or contractor relationships we have developed, in a lot of cases, put us first," she points out.

At a time when many are seeking a better lifestyle away from the ever-rising costs and demands of metropolitan living, Murray Bridge stands as a symbol of great opportunity.

"It’s one of the places in South Australia that is going to grow exponentially as a place to live, work and enjoy life."

Under Barclay’s leadership, the Rural City of Murray Bridge is unmistakably poised to prosper through its new wave of development into the future, exerting a profound influence on its wider region in the process.

"There’s this opportunity at the moment that only happens once in 20 or 30 years at a location where the stars almost align," Barclay reflects.

"Where local government, state government and the private sector can work in partnership and do something very special. It’s one of the places in South Australia that is going to grow exponentially as a place to live, work and enjoy life."

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