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She is retiring after 35 years in local politics - 11 on the Te Anau community board and 24 on the council, including 21 as mayor.
She fought back tears as friends and family, including her son Andrew, who lives in the United States, entered the council chamber, and wiped away more as her fellow councillors acknowledged her service.
In her valedictory speech, she said becoming mayor in 1992 was a very scary and emotional experience and she had similar feelings now.
Her first days as mayor had been ''terrifying and lonely'', she said, confessing she had ''shed tears in the toilets''.
But she said both she and the council had developed over the years and were now cohesive and like a family.
The tributes flowed, with Mrs Cardno described as a positive leader, well respected, charming and exceptional.
The contribution of three other councillors who are also retiring was also acknowledged. They are Mrs Cardno's deputy mayor of 21 years, Jim Copland, Cr Diane Ridley, from Te Anau, and Cr Wallace Jack.