Wanganui Mayor Annette Main will lead a district council featuring four new faces for the next three years, having successfully seen off challenges for her position. Having come through a first term which, by her own admission, "was the hardest three years of my life", Ms Main finished a comfortable 2600-plus votes ahead of Michael Laws, with Ray Stevens a distant third.
Three years ago she won the mayoralty by a mere 200-odd votes from Dot McKinnon, who had served as Michael Laws' deputy in 2007-10.
This time, in what was clearly a two-horse race with Mr Laws, she got the clear mandate she wanted.
The preliminary count gives Ms Main 9438 votes and Mr Laws 6788. The 1539 votes for Mr Stevens underlined the voter focus in this contest.
Mr Laws and Mr Stevens can take solace from the fact both are back on council duties.
They will meet up with newcomers Charlie Anderson, Helen Craig, Jenny Duncan and Martin Visser, and rejoin incumbents Hamish McDouall, Jack Bullock, Philippa Baker-Hogan, Rob Vinsen, Rangi Wills and Sue Westwood.
Ousted are one of Wanganui's longest-serving councillors, Randhir Dahya, and Allan Anderson.
Ms Main told the Chronicle that the results indicated people were happy with the direction the council was going and that it was thinking of the long-term future. "And that's what my campaign was about, rather than looking just at tomorrow," she said. "We've got repairs to the wastewater plant under way, we're going to continue working on the debt and now it's time to look to the future."
She said the new council looked like a good team. "It's interesting that all the new councillors are business-focused.
"That demonstrates that Wanganui knows we are going to have to grow business if we're going to grow at all," she said.
Economic development would be an "absolute focus" of the incoming council. "We have to demonstrate that Wanganui is a place to develop business and that new business will be welcomed."
Streamlining council structure was another area she would be looking at. Congratulating Ms Main, Mr Laws said her campaign message that three years was not enough had resonated with the voters. He would continue to promote options and alternatives he believed to be in Wanganui's best interests.
"Wanganui faces some huge hurdles over the next three years and they will test every elected member, every ratepayer and the community at large. The council itself requires real reform. That there are four new councillors will be very interesting," Mr Laws said.
"We are all on notice - mayor and councillors alike."
Mr Stevens said the result for him represented "practice for next time". But he acknowledged he could not give the mayoral campaign the diligence it deserved this time. "Democracy has spoken - the better person won on the day and congratulations are certainly due to Annette," Mr Stevens said.
"The newcomers will bring a breath of fresh air to the council chamber and I have no problems being able to work with any of them."
Provisional results from the 2013 local body elections around the country are online at the NZ Herald.
for more articles from this region, go to WANGANUI CHRONICLE