The race for the Waipā mayoralty has been given extra spice with the shock announcement this week experienced councillor Susan O’Regan – regarded by some as a potential contender – will not stand again.
Mayor Jim Mylchreest told The News in August last year he was standing and since then several councillors have been considering making a race of it.
Mylchreest was elected unopposed in 2019, but it looks certain there will be a race in 2022.
O’Regan, a barrister specialising in family law before she was elected to the council, chairs the council’s Strategic Planning and Policy committee and drew huge praise for her handling of last year’s Long Term Plan deliberations.
She is joining Dairy NZ as its senior advisor strategic engagement but will see out her term until the new council’s election on October 8.
“My decision was not an easy one.
“I have really enjoyed doing my best to bring a strong, forward thinking rural voice to council and to have our lives as farmers and families living on the land considered in decision making,” she said.
“I have enjoyed working with a great bunch of people passionate about Waipā and am hugely grateful for their wisdom shared and help given to me over the past five years.”
O’Regan, a National party supporter, also ruled out a tilt at the Tauranga seat vacated by Simon Bridges. Her mother the late Katherine O’Regan, a member of parliament from 1984 to 1999, ran twice in Tauranga, losing both times to Winston Peters.
Sources say deputy mayor Liz Stolwyk would be a serious contender, given she lives in Ōhaupō, represents the Cambridge ward and has strong community links across the district.
Delaying her decision is her loyalty to Mylchreest, family – she has three teenage sons – and her site manager job at Mighty River Domain, Lake Karāpiro.
Others mentioned in dispatches include Cambridge councillor Philip Coles who has strong business support through his involvement with Destination Cambridge and the Chamber of Commerce. He is a real estate agent and a fifth generation Cambridge resident with strong ties to St Peter’s School.
Marcus Gower lives in Kihikihi and runs his own Information Technology business. He is into his fourth term on the council and has shown his strength in the regulatory areas. He chairs the Regulatory committee and is on the licensing committee.
O’Regan would not be drawn on who she would support only saying her departure presented an opportunity for another skilled and experienced person to step up.
“There is a lot of interesting work being done in Waipā right now and with the reform of local government in the pipeline it will be an exciting space to be albeit (in) somewhat uncharted territory.”