Bay mayor won't contest next election

By Doug Laing

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Napier Mayor Barbara Arnott is not seeking re-election at October's polls - ending 12 years in the top job.

Speaking to Hawke's Bay Today last night she was adamant the decision had nothing to do with "amalgamation" and said: "My reasons are personal, family. My parents are very elderly, and I might only see them 9 or 10 days over the next five years if I carry on."

Always regarding the role as an extension of previous voluntary roles and asked if she might continue in local-body service, she said, "I have no plans," not even for what she will do after relinquishing office.

"My commitment to the city and its ongoing welfare will never diminish," she said.

The first to know of her decision apart from dentist-husband David, and "mum and dad in their 90s" in Balclutha, where she was born and raised, were councillors and staff, the 500 employees being told at three meetings yesterday afternoon.

CEO Neil Taylor reckoned ahead of the meetings "there might be a few tears", and avoiding the modern-temptation of an impersonal email sign-off, Mrs Arnott said: "I'm talking to them all, personally."

There were some tears, sources said later, and at the last call, at "the Depot," work crews in hi-viz vests stood at the door to shake her hand. She obliged, but told them she's not "saying goodbye."

"There are still a whole lot of things to tick-off before October," she said later at home, where husband and default "Mayoress" David said he was told about a fortnight ago, and had reassured he would support whatever she did - even if it had been another three years.

"Personally, I think it'd be better for the city if she kept going," he said.

The Arnott era began when she was elected to the Council as an Ahuriri Ward representative in 1995.

With two terms under her belt, she beat fellow councillor Tony Reid at the polls to to replace out-going four-term leader Alan Dick, and is now one of just 18 Mayors of Napier in 138 years.

Claiming the chains of office with a 8357-vote margin, her position has never been seriously threatened, with just one opponent at each subsequent election.

In 2004 she beat Cr Robin Gwynn by 10,480 votes, in 2007 non-councillor and Marineland-fighter Cliff Church was dispatched with a 12,307 margin, and in 2010 Cr Michelle Pyke fell short by 9039.

With Deputy Mayor Kathie Furlong also departing after a parallel council career, there will be much conjecture about future contenders.

The decision was a surprise to many, with Hawke's Bay Regional Council chairman Fenton Wilson saying: "Really? Really? I'm gobsmacked."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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