Far North mayoral candidate Peter Gill says he took on the current mayor, John Carter, despite being a "total unknown" with no chance of winning because he was concerned about the council's "sad and shabby brand".
Mr Gill, a motoring writer who moved to Waipapa from Auckland in 2013, gained almost 4500 votes, despite his low profile and a barely visible campaign.
Mr Carter, who won just under 11,000 votes, was pleased with his increased majority but said the support for Mr Gill was a sign he still had plenty of work to do as mayor.
Mr Gill said he had no chance of winning because he was new to Northland, while Mr Carter had lived here most of his life and had been in politics for three decades.
However, he had put his name forward because of what he saw as the Far North District Council's "tarnished image" and "sad and shabby brand", a problem he said he would have addressed immediately.
That image discouraged outside investors from putting money into the district, he said.
Incidents that had contributed to that poor image included a previous mayor who Mr Gill said was Trump-like in his penchant for divisive comments and a Serious Fraud Office investigation, which did not lead to prosecution but was never explained.
More recent was the council's "unconscionable" demand that Kerikeri residents make a major financial decision within days about hooking up to the town's extended sewerage system, after many years' delay on the issue.
Mr Gill said there was no political significance in the timing of his last-minute stand for the mayoralty. He had planned to submit his nomination earlier but the death of his mother took him to the Waikato so he was unable to file his papers until late on the last day.
He said it was clear most of those who turned out on election day wanted to continue with Mr Carter. "Around 10,000 of them have said they're quite happy with the current council leadership. Something over 4000 wanted to go forward, with me. I thank them. As they say, 'The people have spoken'."
It was likely he would run for the council or mayoralty again.
"This brand has to be repaired and made saleable to outside investors that will bring jobs.
John is a lovely bloke ... but he's a tired-out old public servant who has never started or run a business in his life. He has existed on the public purse."