Team building a focus for new CHB mayor

By Nicki Harper

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Change was the catchword of this year's CHB local body elections, and the voters sent a strong message to that effect on Saturday, resulting in seven new faces around the council table, including mayor Alex Walker.

It was a decisive victory for the Waipukurau businesswoman who ran a campaign promoting a young, fresh, positive approach to council leadership in the district.

Preliminary results released yesterday showed Ms Walker secured 3,535 votes, well ahead of fellow candidate Sally Butler with 1,631 and Gerard Pain, with 725.

Asked whether she expected the result to be so emphatic, she said she was thrilled and amazed at the outcome, as well as humbled.

Getting down to business, she said the first step would be to get the new council team together and start working on getting the priorities sorted out, as well as spending some time at the council offices getting to know the people there.

At this point she had not decided who the deputy mayor would be.

"I have some ideas but will have to get the team together first and see what the dynamic is, and the pros and cons of the different people."

A focus in coming months would be key campaign topics such as the council's building department.

"The community has an expectation that in all their dealings with council they want it to be easier, more professional and helpful.

"The building department will be a starting point and this will translate to other parts of council, it could be where the culture change comes in."

Another important job would be to consider a new chief executive appointment, which would need some planning and clear expectations set, and there was the long-term plan to consider at the beginning of next year.

There had been much discussion in recent months about the need for the council to be more open and she said, bearing in mind some matters would need to be publicly excluded due to privilege and legal issues, the aim was to create a more public way of operating.

"Even workshops where councillors get more information - I can't see why the public would not be able to look at that information as well if they wanted to."

Being new to local government, she said one of her challenges would be to get people to take her seriously.

"People think I don't know things about local government but I have been doing my homework, and will be showing people that we can move the team forward."
At the same time she said she would be working on gaining the respect of the people around her.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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