A familiar face is stepping up for the top job at the NSW SES Port Macquarie unit.
Katie Blake has been named as the new NSW SES Port Macquarie unit commander, making her the first female commander for the local unit.
Ms Blake said the new role was quite exciting.
"It's an amazing opportunity and I just hope that I can do the unit proud," she said.
"The actual unit membership and volunteers that we have here do come from quite a diverse background and it's just nice that I can be part of that group and represent that group."
Ms Blake first joined the local unit when she decided to attend a Wednesday night training session after volunteering at the Armidale SES unit.
She got a call from the unit duty office the next day at 7am asking if she could attend a storm related job.
She's now served in the unit for seven years, with a total of 12 years at the SES.
"For me it was a combination of wanting to give back to the community, learn new skills and meeting some amazing people," she said.
"And to be honest, I think the thing that really keeps me is [that] it's really about building capability and capacity, and seeing the development of others now which is really quite amazing."
Ms Blake has gone from strength to strength at the SES.
It was a role that Ms Blake said was an eyeopener for her.
"It was a challenge but it was amazing to see how the community came together to help each other," she said.
"It's all about coming together and being able to coordinate all of those resources and once again making sure we've got the right people with the right skills, the right capabilities at the right place with the right equipment."
Previous unit commander Michael Ward commended Ms Blake for her work as sector commander in the 2021 flooding event.
"If it wasn't for Katie, it would have been a completely different outcome," he said.
"The fact she was there, she was consistent and she made sure things ran smoothly...she did a really good job."
Michael Ward steps down
Mr Ward is stepping down as the Port Macquarie SES unit commander after serving in the role for six years.
"There are various reasons for [stepping down] but effectively it comes down to I've been director for six years which I think is a reasonable length of time," he said.
"And I've got two young kids as well."
"I was lucky enough to lead the unit through these things but I was lucky enough to have a management team behind me that could step in," he said.
"To have that depth of people sitting there, they can step in and do it."
For him, 'knowledge is power' but 'shared knowledge is all powerful'.
"There's no point hanging around for 20 years, holding onto all of this [knowledge] not wanting to share this stuff," he said.
"It's actually better off shared around different people working with a different perspective.
"At the end of the day...I believe the unit is stronger for it and because of that we can get on with saving lives and creating safer communities."
Mr Ward may be stepping down as unit commander but he won't be leaving the SES, remaining on hand to help his community in times of need.
Mr Ward explained his time as unit commander as three two year terms with his final term spent finding his replacement.
In that final term he found his deputy unit commander was the best for the job.
"[I had] absolutely zero hesitation in recommending Katie," he said.
"It's going to be a change but it's going to be a change for the positive."
Vision for the future
Ms Blake said she would definitely be filling huge shoes but would be building upon the work of previous unit commanders Michael Ward and Kevin Sherwood by staying current and receptive to what the
"They put Port Macquarie on the map for not only being a professional organisation that's basically got the skills, capabilities and volunteers to be able to help the community in their times of need," she said.
"It's just building upon all those relationships, all of that work they've put in and continuing that into the future.
"It is important that we just stay current, make sure we have enough volunteers and that we can do what we need to do."
On top of her volunteer work, Ms Blake also works full time at TAFE and works part time in hospitality but said it didn't distract her from her role at the SES.
"I don't do it alone," she said.
"There's a lot of people that contribute to management.
"I'm just now the one who is steering the ship."
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