Long-time chief hands over Thomas & Coffey reins

Peter Buckley has been appointed general manager of the Wollongong operations for Thomas & Coffey.

He replaces NSW general manager Phil Brodie, who was based in the Illawarra at Unanderra for 21 years and managed other branches in NSW and Queensland before that.

But after 37 years in the game, Mr Brodie said it was time for a break and to use up his long service and annual leave.

"I have lots of good memories from working with lots of good people," he said.

"I have seen a lot of businesses rise and a lot fall. Unfortunately we are going through some very tough times at the moment but I am sure we will survive because we have always had that resilience to do that here in the Illawarra."

Mr Brodie employed Mr Buckley six years ago as business development manager, and initially moved into an operational role.

He said the key to retaining a large workforce of about 260 people in the Illawarra had been the stability that came from having a permanent workforce.

"My main goal throughout my whole career has been to employ people," Mr Brodie said.

"I think over the 21 years we have probably employed thousands of people in Wollongong. Apprentices have always been a high priority. We have always had up to 50 apprentices here in Wollongong. We have been one of the largest employers of apprentices and trainees in the Illawarra. In the good times we were taking on between 16 and 20 apprentices a year."

Mr Buckley said that focus would continue.

He said he had been working in engineering for mining construction companies across Australia before he took on his role at Thomas & Coffey.

"I still remember the day I received a phone call from Phil," he said.

"I was in Tasmania. I came in and saw him ... and it changed my career. Working under Phil for the last six years has been wonderful. He has been a great mentor and he has left me with a great business here in Wollongong that we want to preserve and keep growing."

Mr Buckley said on top of the 260-strong permanent workforce, Thomas & Coffey also employed a pool of casuals.

"We still have 11 apprentices this year," he said.

"I will be focusing on the current clients we have and making sure we service them well."

Mr Buckley lives in the Southern Highlands with his wife and four children, including identical triplets.

He will continue to be involved in the Illawarra Innovative Industry Network (i3net) and plans to remain a director of The Illawarra Connection networking group.

Mr Buckley felt it was a tremendous privilege to take on the manager's position and he planned to build on his predecessor's legacy.

"I think a lot of the credit for this branch has to go to Phil for his 21 years of leadership and service," he said.

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