Western Bay of Plenty District Mayor Ross Paterson will not seek re-election at this year's local body elections in October.
Announcing his decision today, Ross calls time on 21 years serving Western Bay. His seven terms include 7.5 years as deputy Mayor and 7.5 years as Mayor.
Ross reflects on his time as an incredibly rewarding experience.
"It has been a great privilege working for the people of the Western Bay. I leave with satisfying memories and a sense of pride from being involved in the planning and funding of projects that have changed the shape of the Western Bay sub-region."
I step down knowing the Western Bay is in better shape and capable of delivering its responsibilities to the future of the sub-region.
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While the job has had its challenges, Ross says he's been fortunate to work with councils, Central Government, community leaders and tangata whenua who have understood the importance of working collaboratively to develop the District and the wider Bay of Plenty region.
He says that SmartGrowth, the shared growth management strategy between Tauranga City, the Regional Council, Western Bay and Maori, has been fundamental to delivering planning, infrastructure and environmental initiatives to prepare the region for future growth.
"SmartGrowth is recognised nationally as the benchmark strategy for managing growth in communities."
The development of the Tauranga Eastern Link is testimony to SmartGrowth and has been another highlight of his time as Mayor.
"This new highway was an extremely rewarding project involving Tauranga and Western Bay councils, the Regional Council and the Transport Agency," says Ross.
"It will serve our region well for the next 50 years and is among other large contracts for road maintenance and water that have delivered millions of dollars in savings to our ratepayers."
At a community level Ross has been involved with plans that ensure the District has a strong future.
"These long-term plans make sure our communities across the District, from Paengaroa, Maketu and Te Puke in the east to Omokoroa, Katikati and Waihi Beach in the west, can thrive economically, socially and environmentally.
"Knowing the benefits of these community-led efforts will endure is something I'll certainly look back on with pride," says Ross.
Looking ahead Ross says it's imperative councils around the Bay of Plenty keep working together and listening to their communities.
"The debate in front of local government right now is one of ensuring cost-effective service delivery over the long term. Communities must be at the heart of this discussion.
"What's important is that everyone involved understands that the nuts and bolts of service delivery are very different to democratic representation.
"I firmly believe you can make vast improvements to the way local government services are delivered without sacrificing community input around the council table," he says.
Ross leaves at a time when local government heads into an environment of change and his message to future leaders is that enhanced cooperation and shared services are fundamental to realising efficiencies and delivering better value to ratepayers.
"I certainly see benefit in progressing more shared services and, in some situations, I believe that joining resources to deliver major services such as roading, water and regulatory functions will be the answer to more successful and efficient local government."
Following the October election Ross looks forward to spending more time with family and focusing on a range of commercial interests.
He says the support, tolerance and love of his wife Robyn has been a mainstay of his long career in local body politics and now it is time to call it a day.
"My family's support and commitment has been behind me all the way and I cannot thank them enough. At times they have had to take second place to council business. Now it's their turn.
"I step down knowing the Western Bay is in better shape and capable of delivering its responsibilities to the future of the sub-region."