Truckloads of work awaits retiring Bob Elvy

Four decades: Bob Elvy, right, with Brett Cleary at the Cleary Bros historical equipment museum. Picture: ADAM McLEAN
Four decades: Bob Elvy, right, with Brett Cleary at the Cleary Bros historical equipment museum. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

As a football fan and former chairman of the Illawarra Steelers, Cleary Bros chief executive Bob Elvy knows players can find a void in their lives after they hang up the boots.

And he admits it's not just footy players, the same thing happens to chief executives too. After 39 years with Cleary Bros, more than half of those as chief executive, Mr Elvy is preparing to shut his office door for the last time.

And he's aware closing that door will likely create a bit of a void.

"Certainly I expect to feel a bit of that," Mr Elvy said.

"I think that's unavoidable when you've spent 40 years of your life and 25 at a senior level of a company, you've got to have that feeling.

"But that doesn't mean it's wrong to leave that environment just because of that. You've got to think about other things - it's the right time for the company and for myself. We think this is the best way to go forward - and I can enjoy a different lifestyle."

If all goes well with the search for his replacement, Mr Elvy will leave his office in late December, but not the company. The Cleary family has asked him to stay on as a board member.

That will be one thing that will help fill the space left by a job he has enjoyed so much that he only took five sick days in four decades.

He will also continue with the type of extracurricular activities he took on while working as chief executive. Mr Elvy was a member of the Steelers board, a trustee of the Wollongong Sportsground, on the advisory board of Wollongong City Mission, and he spent two years as director of the Wollongong Hawks.

He said community participation was part of the Cleary Bros culture. He is Illawarra Sports Stadium chairman and plans to continue that role, and look for other areas where he can help.

"I'll certainly continue some local sporting roles," Mr Elvy said.

"I'm on the IMB board and that will continue - I've got another term there coming up. I'll also be looking out for some other opportunities as well.

"I'm not going to drop off the scene like that. I'm not going to lie in the front yard or the backyard - I certainly want to keep active. My intention is not to decrease my involvement, it's to build it up to a reasonable level because I don't want to sit at home twiddling my thumbs."

Mr Elvy joined Cleary Bros in the 1970s with an electrical engineering degree. In 1979 he earned a second degree, in commerce, which he called "a turning point" because it led him to focus on finance and administration.

Mr Elvy has seen too many Cleary Bros projects to highlight a favourite. They include Mascot's third runway, the Port Kembla Harbour reclamation, the Illawarra Steelers Club, WIN Stadium southern grandstand and the Narooma breakwaters.

"All those things have made it very interesting. It's the variety of that and the vitality of management and the ability to tackle different things like that which have been a highlight of the job for me," he said.

Retirement will probably bring the chance to sit in the western grandstand in a jersey rather than a suit to watch the Dragons play but he said he and wife Di would be "ticking a few boxes" before they settle into a slower lifestyle.

"I'm a very keen four-wheel-driver," Mr Elvy said.

"So I like going to places where a lot of people don't get to very often. We've done quite a few of those things but there are still lots more to do in Australia.

"The thing is I have to balance that with my wife's desire to do travel other than camping. We have a passion for both kinds of travel and we'll be doing a bit more of that."


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