The Central Land Council (CLC) will have a new chief executive officer in the New Year.

Senior federal public servant Joe Martin-Jard will become the land council’s first CEO, taking over from retiring CLC director David Ross.

The CLC executive voted unanimously to appoint Mr Martin-Jard, who is the Alice Springs based regional manager in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

He will become only the fourth administrative head of the CLC in more than four decades when he takes up the post in February.

“We are very happy that Mr Martin-Jard has accepted our offer. He has a good sense of humour, shares our values and is someone we can all work with,” CLC chair Francis Kelly said.

Mr Martin-Jard’s most recent focus as a public servant has been on Aboriginal employment, economic development and community services, the CLC said.

He has also worked in the private and non-government sectors, holding leadership positions in Darwin’s Danila Dilba Health Service and the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the NT, and has managed a Top End labour hire company.

Of Kamilaroi descent, he holds tertiary qualifications in international and public sector management.

The appointment ends a national search to find a successor for Mr Ross, who has led the land council since 1989.

Mr Kelly thanked Mr Ross for his service.

“Rossy has done so much for the CLC — we can’t really thank him enough. We will all miss him but he really deserves a break,” he said.

“He is not just an outstanding director, he is also our longest serving employee.”

Mr Ross started at the CLC in 1979, as a council clerk, and went on to play a significant role in national Aboriginal policy, particularly in land rights and native title.

Mr Kelly said recent highlights of Mr Ross’s leadership were the expansion of the CLC’s Aboriginal ranger and community development programs.

Labor Senator Pat Dodson said Mr Ross was a lifelong fighter for land rights.

“I greatly enjoyed working closely with him when we were both at the CLC,” Senator Dodson said.

“I have always had a deep respect for his dedication, work ethic and unwavering passion for First Nations rights in Central Australia, and I am proud to be his friend and supporter.”