'Time for a life change': Serenity welcome after council role

Former Clutha District councillor Michelle Kennedy relaxes at her Tapanui home yesterday, after...
Former Clutha District councillor Michelle Kennedy relaxes at her Tapanui home yesterday, after stepping down from 10 years on the council late last year. PHOTO: RICHARD DAVISON
A former Clutha councillor says she is looking forward to some "Nanny time" after stepping down recently.

Having served as one of two West Otago ward councillors for the past decade, Michelle Kennedy yesterday said she had made the final decision before Christmas as it was "time for a life change".

As she is only part way through her fourth consecutive term as a councillor, the move triggers a by-election, which will take place on March 17.

Although Mrs Kennedy (57) had originally stepped down to take up an expanded role with St John — with which she has been a volunteer ambulance officer for the past 15 years — a recurrence of a long-standing back injury means she will now not be pursuing that path.

She said she would remain a volunteer, however, and welcomed the increased leisure and family time her unexpected new circumstances would offer.

"I’ve never done anything in half measure, so a lot of sport in former days, followed by years seated on community boards and council, then in ambulances and lifting patients, has finally had an effect.

"Having had a moment to reflect, it’s time to step aside from some of my volunteering and spend more time with my [nine] grandchildren and my partner, Graeme. Nanny time, you could call it."

Tapanui born-and-bred, Mrs Kennedy said she had not expected to spend so many years serving in local government, although for the most part it had been an "enjoyable" experience.

"There’s never been a contest for my seat since I stood. I’ve either been doing something right, or nobody else was stupid enough," she said.

She said contrary to negative impressions about serving in local government, a role as a councillor could be rewarding.

"It’s fair to say the cogs turn pretty slowly sometimes, but when you see positive end results for even the smallest community in your district, it makes it all worthwhile."

Although the council had experienced "some hiccups" recently — including a $500,000 fine for wastewater non-compliance — Mrs Kennedy said interactions with ratepayers tended to be "positive".

"It’s human nature to complain, but I’ve always tried to hear what people say, and get back to them with an answer.

"Just don’t call me, now, please."

She had three tips for her successor, and said she hoped West Otago would continue to be strongly represented.

"No question is a dumb question; always speak your mind, as others are probably thinking the same thing; and most importantly stick up for what you believe in. Good, old-fashioned values are still important in today’s world — probably more so than ever."

Nominations for the by-election close at noon, on Tuesday, January 19.

richard.davison@odt.co.nz

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