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Michael Laws had addressed another Otago Regional councillor's assertion he can be seen as "smug", "sneering" and "patronising to staff".
Cr Laws was made deputy chairman of the council at its first meeting of the term in Dunedin today.
Initially he was nominated for the chairman role, but pulled out shortly before voting started.
Before that each candidate was questioned by their peers on how they would fare as leader.
Cr Michael Deaker said having Cr Laws as the chairman would make him "nervous".
"Quite often as a councillor he is projected as being sneering, as being smug, as making personal comments. He's been seen to be patronising to staff and colleagues.
"All of that to me is a real challenge."
Cr Laws said he became "combative" when it was made clear he and late councillor Maggie Lawton were not going to "make traction" at the governance table last term.
He had "no option" and was "completely frozen from the process", he said.
"I guess I've mellowed a little bit over the years Michael. You might find that hard to believe."
He promised he would be "intellectually rigorous" and his high vote numbers proved the community "trusted him and his communication style".
"Do I need to make personal changes myself? Everybody does," he said.