In almost 10 years as the Tararua District Council's resilience officer, Paddy Driver has encapsulated the best a manager can be, council chief executive Blair King said at Driver's retirement yesterday morning.
"At council, managers have to take control of their own areas and Paddy has built incredible relationships," King said. "He took his budget and used it to do something tangible."
Before the establishment of Fire and Emergency New Zealand, Driver was also the principal rural fire officer for Tararua, but his wasn't a command and control leadership King said.
This was best illustrated after the January 2014 Eketahuna earthquake where Driver was able to respond to media and Ministers of the Crown quickly because of the network and teams he'd set up as part of the district's emergency response teams.
"Paddy's work with volunteers really set him apart," King said. "Now his retirement is extremely well deserved."
Allan Benbow, the Tararua District deputy mayor, said he always thought of Driver as Mr Emergency.
"Under your guidance we were all reassured we were looked after," he said.
Driver has also made a big contribution to the district's regional emergency management and had a big impact.
"You know what you are going to get with Paddy, he doesn't tolerate fools and I've seen him send people running with their tail between their legs," a regional emergency manager from Palmerston North said.
Former Tararua Mayor Roly Ellis said Driver changed rural fire crews in the district, acquiring machinery and assets.
"It was Paddy's character which got the Tiraumea Rural Fire Force up and running again and he's done a lot more than just his work for the council," he said.
And thinking of the community, Driver asked his farewell gifts from council be donated to the Guardian Angels group.
Peter Wimsett of Tararua District Council, said Driver's military background always came through in everything he did.
"I'd like to thank him for all the humour over the years too," he said.
Driver is retiring after 55 years of working life and it's been a pretty interesting life, he said.
In 1964 he joined the Forestry Service, had four years as a cadet, 20 years in the army, including serving in Vietnam, served with the army in Wellington, time with the police, two stints with the Porirua City Council and three years with the Department of Conservation.
"I've never spent more than four years in any job, other than the army, until I came to the Tararua District Council. That says a lot for this place," he said.
"The pressure was on right from the start, but I've enjoyed the work, particularly with the rural fire forces and it's about the friendships I've made throughout the communities of Tararua."
Driver said his philosophy was simple.
"If you are prepared to listen you can make inroads and I've always empowered people and listened, while still keeping them on the straight and narrow," he said.
"One of the reasons for my success was being left alone to get on with the job and it's thanks to Blair (King) for that. This is a great team and I won't forget them."
Tararua Mayor Tracey Collis was unable to attend the function because of a prior engagement, but said Driver has done a phenomenal job in our community.