Premier Mark McGowan and Opposition Leader Mike Nahan were among politicians, business leaders, CCI Members and colleagues who farewelled outgoing CEO Deidre Willmott at a special sundowner last week.

Willmott, a former lawyer, joined CCI as CEO in 2013 and finished her term this week, with Chris Rodwell now in charge of the WA’s peak business body.

McGowan praised Willmott for being a very capable and respected CEO, highlighting her ability to lead the chamber with all its competing interests.

He said throughout his political life Willmott’s treatment of him had been exemplary and she had always displayed poise, grace and presented a reasoned argument.

The Premier’s humour was on show when he pointed out common ground between himself and Willmott, a long-time member of the Liberal party.

“So, in light of all these issues – campaigning on a republic, which I agree with; marriage equality, which I agree with; making sure men and women have time to spend time with their newborn children, she and I share that position; making sure we allow for small bars and making sure that West Australians understand the economy is going great – I have a presentation for you,” he said.

“You might not clap when you see it. It’s a WA Labor membership application.”

Willmott said she’d take it away and look at it and, never missing an opportunity to advocate, said they could “first talk about Western Power and retail trading hours”.

Opposition Leader and former CCI colleague Mike Nahan said Willmott had carried on the success of previous CEOs in ensuring the chamber was the leading business organisation in WA with her good management, good objectives and clarity of policy.

He spoke of the importance of CCI and how his interactions had gone back 30 years, including writing a paper on why Western Power should be sold.

“Deidre and I worked on a range of things including the sale of Western Power,” he said.

“Certain things we change, certain things we achieved and certain things take a while to achieve. Western Power will be one day sold, unless Deidre signs that application form for the Labor party,” he joked.

Rodwell said he’d learnt a “lifetime of lessons” during his short transition to CEO and could see why Willmott was a “class act”. CCI President Ray Sputore acknowledged the significant transformation CCI had been through in recent years, in which Willmott had shown “leadership and compassion”.

Willmott said it had been an absolute privilege to lead CCI, an organisation that never forgets it is business that creates jobs, pays taxes and creates the wealth that communities need to flourish.

She said the organisation had not only worked hard to transform itself but also to lobby hard for tax and GST reforms, retail trading hour changes and to get WA recognised for its defence capabilities.

She said industry groups were only as strong as their membership and acknowledged the work of Members, the board, general council and colleagues.

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