About us

Board and Staff


James Sexton


James Sexton is a prominent businessman and business leader from Mount Barker. He is also leading the campaign to establish The Cedars as the premier gallery and studio showcasing the work of Hans Heysen. James is active in ensuring that the rapid development of the region meets the needs of the community. 

Victoria MacKirdy

Deputy Chair

Victoria MacKirdy is the chief executive of the City of Victor Harbor. Victoria has worked at senior levels with local government as well as a board member of Arts SA.

Alex Reid

Board Member

Alexandra Reid has extensive executive and public sector experience with demonstrated adaptive leadership skills, diverse networks, and an ability to achieve excellent results. Alexandra has worked as an executive across a range of areas in the public sector including skills and training, employment services, arts and cultural heritage, Aboriginal Affairs and regional development. Alexandra lives at Bugle Ranges and has a long term commitment to economic, social and community development throughout the region.

Peter Buik

Board Member

Peter Buik has had a successful background in financial services, business finance and taxation services in his own firm for over 30 years.

Peter has been involved in managing corporate business affairs and property management and development during that time and has been an active investor/developer in Mount Barker since 1993.

Now a resident of the region he is well equipped to apply his business skills for developing investment and employment opportunities within his community.

Stephanie Wurst

Board Member

Stephanie Wurst is a primary producer from Kangaroo Island.  Stephanie has worked in senior level roles within local and state government and is a board member of various agricultural and community organisations.

Peter Wadewitz

Board Member

Peter Wadewitz runs a green recycling business and is an industry leader in environmental management. 

Arabella Branson

Board Member

Arabella Branson has practised as a lawyer in the area of commercial transactional and advisory law since 2000. For nine years she practised in a specialist South Australian corporate and commercial law firm, including more than two years as partner.

She has now established her own commercial advisory practice in Adelaide and is currently a member of the Law Society of South Australia and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Arabella has 14 years of experience on company boards and is currently a board member of SYC Ltd, Lifetime Support Authority, Country Racing SA, Oakbank Racing Club and is a member of the Heart Foundation SA Local Advisory Board. 

John Ashcroft

Board Member

John Ashcroft is a leading Adelaide Hills businessman, having been involved with the design and construction of many significant Adelaide Hills and city projects.

He is also past chairperson of the Hahndorf Business and Tourism Association.

Luke Gray

Board Member

Luke Gray is Manager Strategic Projects and Economic Development at Mount Barker District Council and brings broad and active Local Government experience.


Damien Cooke

Chief Executive Officer and Director of Regional Development 

Damien brings a wealth of knowledge having twenty plus years’ experience working in the field of business development, sales management and marketing in many industry sectors and a variety of overseas markets. Damien is a professional and conscientious person in all aspects of his work, staff find him to be clear, concise leader and enjoy working with him.

He is well organised, systematic and structured in his approach to tasks and problem solving. Damien has been a long term resident of the region and as a local business operator and primary producer he has a genuine understanding for the region and the potential of what the region has to offer. 

Stephen Shotton

Regional Development Manager

Steve is experienced in creation, growth and management of businesses across several industries including agriculture, aquaculture, technology, professional and environmental services. He is skilled in Board Directorship, Entrepreneurship, Raising Capital, Strategic Planning, Business Operations, Business Development and Sales, Project Management, Culture Building, Systems and Procedures, LEAN and Relationship Building at all levels. 

He brings to RDA a wealth of knowledge across many industries, experience in rural and remote regions, an ability to network, think outside the box and look for win-win outcomes.

Sue Arlidge

Regional Development Manager

Sue brings a wealth of experience to the RDA having thirty plus years in business and economic development.

Sue’s vision is to help business, organisations and communities be the best they can by fostering the development of skills and vision, cooperation and collaboration. As a strategic thinker, business mechanic, resource investigator and connector, Sue visualises the big picture and uses her strength in networking to connect people and business to create strategic alliances and achieve outcomes.

Having worked on Kangaroo Island for eight years, Sue has been actively involved in the significant economic transformation of the island. In that time Sue was an advisor to the RDA for 18 months during which time she led the RDA’s advocacy work on the ~$40M SA Water Security project and mentored over 40 businesses impacted directly or indirectly by the Black Summer Bushfires.

Sara O’Dea

Executive Assistant to the CEO and Project Officer

Having lived her whole life in the region, Sara has a real passion for the Adelaide Hills, Fleurieu and Kangaroo Island area. She is enthusiastic about providing Executive Support to our CEO and Board, and loves being part of the team. Sara is highly reliable, efficient and dedicated multitasker with a high level of experience in administrative roles. Sara brings a unique skill set, combining her dynamic organisational and administrative background with ongoing creativity. 

Sara has a bright, bubbly personality and very approachable, she is always willing to lend a helping hand. 

Anna Butler

Administration & Marketing Officer

Anna brings more than 15 years’ copywriting, content creation and digital marketing experience to her role. She has a strong commitment to the region and helping local business thrive through their online presence. In conjunction with RDA, she has previously delivered education seminars around digital content and social media strategy to businesses across the Fleurieu, Adelaide Hills and Riverland. Anna has also worked with local business groups and Council on projects such as the Santos Tour Down Under, and developed the tagline for the Town of Strathalbyn’s updated branding.

Anna is responsible for our online communications and marketing, from creating our weekly newsletter and social content, to maintaining our website and writing media releases.

Leanne Li

Finance Manager

Leanne joined RDA in 2013 in the role of Finance Officer, reporting to CEO and the finance committee. In addition to holding a master’s degree in accounting and finance, she is a CPA qualified accountant.

She works with external auditors to set up and improve our accounting procedures, keeps financial records for both office operation and various projects, prepares regular financial reports for both internal and external use. Her most outstanding job qualities are her reliable on-time reporting, problem-solving, well planned scheduling, and trustworthiness.

Richard Scollin

Regional Workforce Program Manager

Richard has extensive experience in working in workforce development and workforce participation programs in South Australia, working mostly in partnership with Regional Development Authorities, Industry, Employers, Training Organisations, State/Federal/Local Government and communities.

Richard is excited to be working with Regional Development Australia Adelaide Hills, Fleurieu, Kangaroo Island and looks forward to supporting industry and employers to identify and find suitable employees.

Oliver Walton

Regional Workforce Program Coordinator

Oliver has 10 years of recruitment experience having firstly worked within a large international agency in Melbourne before working in Regional Australia in the Employment Services field with a stint of internal recruitment within financial services in between.

He is a trusted advisor to his clients providing invaluable advice on recruitment trends and how individuals can achieve their personal career goals. He believes in forward thinking, rapid response and adding value to every interaction.

Oliver has been brought on to assist with the Regional Workforce Coordination and Collaboration Initiative to deal with workforce issues resulting from COVID-19.