Ross Paterson's hands sum up the life of a Kiwi district mayor as well as any words could.
Large fingers covered in rough skin and scattered cuts, his wife of 45 years, Robyn, tells me he surprises those with "town" handshakes.
Paterson, who announced in April that he would not run for re-election next month, has been in local body politics almost half their marriage.
He was elected to Western Bay of Plenty District Council in 1995 and since then has spent seven years as deputy mayor and the same as mayor.
In the 90s the community-minded Pahoia farmer became concerned about the number of properties being cut up and sold off as orchards, grazing and lifestyle blocks. Urban and rural people living side by side presented challenges the farming district had not faced before.
"It's just a complete change in the district's character," he said.
Then there were the roads. He knew the district's kilometres of metal roading were not up to coping with the surge in population.
The 73-year-old's connection to the region stretches back a lifetime.
He grew up with his parents, brother and three sisters, on the family dairy farm at Te Maunga. The farmhouse sat where the Baypark Speedway pits are now and the cowshed has been replaced by the auditorium of ASB Arena.
You've got to love the job - and I do love the job.
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He used to cut hay on the site of Girven Rd and Baywave.
"I can remember when the Mount stopped at Central Parade," he said.
Paterson was a foundation pupil of Mount Maunganui College and a strong member of Mount Maunganui Surf Life Saving Club.
Somewhere in his collection is a silver medal for surf canoeing at the New Zealand Champs.
He met Robyn, who now works as a community magistrate, at the beach and she recalls feeling out of place visiting him in the cowshed wearing her white school dental nurse's uniform.
The couple moved to a 180-acre block at Pahoia in 1972.
"It was all just big green paddocks," said Paterson.
They had "no money" and lived in a cottage held up by "700 square feet of bora holding hands," said Robyn.
They had three children in three years and built a four-bedroom family bungalow on the same farm.
In 1982 they sold the cows and moved into the deer industry.
"It was a new emerging industry and that's the sort I am. I'm interested in getting into something new, something positive," said Paterson.
Passionate about roading, within three years on council he was chairman of the roading committee and has been co-chair for the Road Controlling Authorities Forum for the past seven years. The national forum meet about four times a year.
In 2001 he became deputy mayor to Graeme Weld.
When Weld passed away from cancer in November 2008 a by-election was held and Paterson was elected over sole opponent, Norm Bruning, in March 2009.
"I was ready to step up," Paterson said.
When he's not in his office, the community or chambers you'll find him on his farm - now downscaled to 40 acres, looking after about 100 deer.
Ten years ago the couple built their dream home on the hilltop overlooking the harbour, with a breathtaking view stretching as far as Whitianga on a clear day.
Initially hesitant about his decision to give up the mayoral chains, Paterson will miss having a voice and the political sway to get things done.
"It's 21 years of investment here that's given me those contacts," he said."How do you push the button now?
"I've had such a long association with the district and I've seen so much change. I've seen the change and I've worked forward with the change. I haven't been afraid of it."
The couple's three children, daughter Jodie and sons Scott and Trent, each have three children of their own.
Jodie is a GP and the couple's sons are farmers at Paengaroa and Karapiro.
The nine grandchildren range in age from 15 down to 5 and are often visiting.
The younger ones pull brightly-coloured mattresses from the garage into their grandparents' bedroom and sleep on the floor.
"It's like a marae," jokes Paterson.
The family has grown up with an understanding and respect for their parents' significant roles in the community.
"Robyn has showed a lot of tolerance and support for my role in local government and they have missed out. The demands of local government is 24/7 and there's times I missed things with the family," Paterson said.
The couple rarely watch TV in the evenings, preferring to share their day over a nice glass of red.
Patience, tolerance and love are the secrets to a long and happy marriage according to Paterson.
"It's allowing each other to do their own thing but still having a life together," adds Robyn.
Being mayoress has been a privilege, Robyn said.
"We just feel we know this place so well. We've met some excellent people and have become friends with some very good people."
But being mayor never stops.
"You've got to love the job - and I do love the job. You've got to keep the blood pressure low and not react," Paterson said.
People were the most important thing, he said.
"Your openness and making them feel comfortable. You become quite open and talk readily to people any where, any time."
He credited three successful terms as mayor to the staff at Western Bay.
"You surround yourself with good people and it makes you look good, it's very true," he said.