Kelvin Davis' elevation to deputy leader of the Labour Party is just one more achievement for an extraordinarily successful family.

Mr Davis is the third of three sons born to Panapa and Glenys Davis, of Karetu (Kawakawa). The eldest, Patrick, is a senior sergeant, second in charge of Northland police iwi liaison. His other brother, Greg, is a district court judge, while his little sister, Sonya Davis-Brooking, is a teacher in Auckland.

Mrs Davis said she was feeling "a little bit overwhelmed" on Tuesday.

"It's not something we were expecting - I don't know if he was expecting it - but we're very proud of him, as we are of all our kids," she said.

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Mr Davis is an old boy of Bay of Islands College, "extremely proud" former principal Frank Leadley remembering him as an excellent student.

"He was involved in all school activities, a prefect, a very good member of the 1st XV and academically sound. He was a very good all-round student," he said, for which he credited a supportive family.

"They're a very good example of a family from a rural background who succeeded, often against the odds, thanks to strong family support and a desire to do well," he added.

Mr Davis' last role in a 20-year career in education was as principal of Kaitaia Intermediate School, which board of trustees chairman Kevin Matthews said had every right to feel immensely proud.

"He was very good for the school. He was forward thinking and he initiated quite big changes," Mr Matthews said.

"He definitely changed the culture, especially among the boys. The school was a bit of a hard place prior to that. By the time left it was in a very good position."