03 November 2023

Gloria Campbell has seen plenty of change in her Public Service career.

For starters, she’s served under 11 prime ministers, plus dozens of ministers and chief executives.

“In terms of the Public Service, the biggest thing that’s changed is our focus on customers and communities,” she says.

“I've seen a whole alphabet soup of acronyms come and go, different programmes and strategies, and it's very clear that the programmes that work are the ones that are grown by the community.”

Gloria started her career in 1978 as a Benefits Clerk at the Department of Social Welfare office in Stratford, Taranaki. She recalls using typewriters and carbon paper, plus the excitement in the office the day colour letterheads were introduced.

She soon moved into an Employment Advisor role, and has worked in a range of roles in the social development and employment spaces ever since.

She’s also seen huge technological advances, as well as community transformations as large employers like freezing works and clothing and car manufacturers closed.

“Seeing how that can affect communities and whānau, I've always had a strong heart for employment as a solution for people.”

Gloria is Regional Public Service Commissioner (RPSC) for Taranaki, one of 12 commissioners working across 15 regions on behalf of the Public Service.

Employed by individual government departments, they help join up Public Service efforts with stakeholders in the community to define priorities and improve services and outcomes. They can also escalate issues to senior Public Service decision makers where necessary.

The approach acknowledges that iwi and other Māori groups and regional stakeholders (including Pasifika, local government, business, ethnic and community groups) know the realities of their communities and hold valuable insights into what can work to improve their wellbeing.  

Gloria was appointed as the Regional Public Service Lead in August 2019 and became RPSC in 2021.

A unique aspect of the system is that all RPSCs actually have two roles, which they have to balance in their day-today work. For Gloria that means she is also Regional Commissioner for Te Manatū Whakahiato Ora | Ministry of Social Development, leading more than 200 staff across Taranaki, King Country and Whanganui.

She remembers the first meeting she organised with regional leaders.

“That first meeting, it was all about the Public Service getting to know itself. We spent a lot of time asking about areas of overlap and shared interests and also about things like secondment and development opportunities for our staff.

“I've been in the region for some time so I was forever introducing people to one another, and now we were all sitting around the same table.”

Outside of her Public Service work, Gloria is passionate about kiwi. She has been involved with the Taranaki Kiwi Trust since 2007, and has spent countless hours trapping pests on her property to help kiwi flourish there.

The idea that service continues, no matter what, is a strong one for Gloria.

She describes the Public Service as a “sophisticated, resourced, and experienced group of people”.

“And it can pivot overnight, it can adapt, it can be redeployed rapidly, and we've seen that with things like following earthquakes, after floods, during Covid, and in response to the Christchurch terror attack.

When something happens we rush to help to ensure that continuation of service, and I don't know if there's a workforce like that anywhere outside the Public Service.

Gloria says public servants have a duty of care to their customers, “not to answer every question, but to be able to refer people to the right place to get that question answered”.

“It's just not one agency's responsibility, and it's also up to us to see where we can add value.”

Ultimately, it all comes back to collectively serving the communities and people of Taranaki.

“Many of us [across the Public Service] have intergenerational links to this beautiful and unique region. We are united in our passion to see Taranaki become an equitable and prosperous region.

“Having an effective, robust group of iwi, public servants and regional leaders who have relationships across the diversity of our population means we connect to the issues at the top of our communities' minds. 

“We have the commitment and passion to enable solutions that lead to better outcomes for all.”