When Royal New Zealand Navy Rear Admiral David Proctor first cast his naval eyes upon what was then known as the Art Deco Weekend back in 1992 he was a Supply Officer aboard HMNZS Tui.

"There were a few people dressed up and three or four old cars running around," was how he put it, for in those early years it was a modest affair.

But not any more as it has grown into an internationally acclaimed festival, and he is delighted to once again attend as part of the navy — but in a far different position to the role he was in 27 years ago.

He will return to his home town of Napier as Chief of Navy — the role he was appointed to on November 29 last year.

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He is delighted to finally return for the Art Deco experience as during the intervening years service commitments had left him unable to attend, although he has returned several times to take part in Anzac Day services.

"I'm proud to be a boy from the Bay," he said.

"And it's always nice to get back home two or three times a year."

He grew up in Maraenui and went to Richmond School, Wycliffe Intermediate and Colenso High School.

He remembers a couple of the lads in the neighbouring house going off to join the navy, and saw how their career choice had strengthened them, physically and emotionally.

But in his teenage years he also thought about joining the fire service or being a traffic officer.

"I wanted to drive cars and motorcycles," he said with a laugh.

But he said a naval career was pretty well inevitable as he had always been "a water baby".

His father was a diver and they were often out in a boat somewhere, and in his young years he sailed P class yachts.

Proctor said the idea of getting off to sea and learning skills which would set him up for life finally sparked him, and he took on logistical and supply roles, and rose through the ranks after joining at the age of 18.

He had no early aspirations to be the Chief of Navy but did relish the opportunities to lead.

Proctor moved up to become Supply Chain Commander and Captain Fleet Support and also served as United Nations Chief of Logistics at the UN mission at East Timor.

Since March last year he had been Deputy Commander of Joint Forces and when he was appointed to the role of Chief of Navy he was the first officer with a logistics background to take it on — the position has typically been held by warfare officers.

He is proud to be the navy's top representative for Art Deco, as he has long recognised the great link between the city and the naval service, and as a lad was always aware of the significance of the Veronica Bell, from the HMS Veronica which was in port when the 1931 earthquake struck.

"We have always had a senior representative there for it and this time it will be me and that makes me proud."

And while in Napier he intends catching up with an old shipmate.

Napier City Council chief executive Wayne Jack served alongside him aboard HMS Endeavour when he was in the navy.

"But he chose a path out into other things but I stayed on — I'm looking forward to catching up with him."