It was a career he fell into by mistake and now after more than 30 years he is saying goodbye. Time spent in council chambers was much more alluring than his trained profession as an accountant and, with the community at heart, he knew it was the best place for him. But after all this time has he achieved everything he set out to? John Cronin talks to journalist Leah Tebbutt about the highlights of his long career - and the reason he is closing the door on 31 years of service.
"I just wanted to do something for the underprivileged."
These are the words of John Cronin, who is bowing out after 31 years serving Tauranga and the wider Bay of Plenty in local government.
It's a move that's been a few years in the making - but Cronin could not retire without seeing the project he calls his "big success" completed.
One of his proudest achievements in his long career is his role in getting the University of Waikato's Tauranga campus under way - a feat he says was motivated by his upbringing.
"I came up from a poorer economic background. So, of course, I am interested in giving the underprivileged a chance because I was one of them.
"Education should not be for the wealthy few, it should be for everybody. That is what I was attempting to do and we reasonably achieved those aims."
He helped establish the Bay of Plenty Regional Council's contestable Regional Infrastructure Fund, which saw $15 million invested into the campus' development.
Cronin planned to retire a few years back, but with the university still not completed, he stayed on for another term.
In total, he served four terms as chairman of the regional council and many other years as a councillor on both the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Tauranga City Council.
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It's a long public service career for a man who never intended to become a politician.
It all began in 1985 when two Tauranga City councillors resigned and Cronin was headhunted for his accounting knowledge.
"I then had a sense of obligation to stand for council again and as they say, the rest is history."
He also played a part in creating "seamless pathways" to ensure students at the polytechnics around the region would be able to complete a master's degree without having to start afresh.
He was chairman of the transport committee when he reintroduced public transport. Although he said people opposed it at the time, he knew it was the best way to get access to central government roading funds.
Other significant moments in his career were the Matatā and Rena disasters. He was immensely proud seeing how councils and other stakeholders worked together to support the community.
"You could actually do something and make a difference. You could improve things and you had budgets to do it.
"But now it is time to go out, there have to be young people coming in. You get stale and a lot of the things I have seen before, in one shape or other."
Cronin's seat on the regional council will be taken by Stacey Rose, 20, who has been elected unopposed.
Councillor Paula Thompson said Cronin had a remarkable career due to his "incredible strategic thinking and innovative way of doing things".
"I think the Bay of Plenty has a lot to thank John for.
"To be elected so many times by his colleagues says something about who he was."
Having served alongside him on both the Tauranga City Council and the regional council, Stuart Crosby said Cronin added "tremendous" value to any debate.
"For councillors like John that have been there a long time, they develop a lot of experience and wisdom which you cannot just develop, so he will be missed."
Highlights of John Cronin's career
• Development of harbour bridges
• Waikareao Estuary expressway
• Eastern Arterial
• Elected to the board of Local Government New Zealand with settlement and Treaty claims and climate change portfolios
Time served at Tauranga City Council
• Chairman of operations and finance 1986-1989
• Chairman of park and reserves and finance 1989-1992
• Chairman of works and finance 1992-1995
Time served at Bay of Plenty Council
• Chairman of transport 1998-2001
• Chairman of full council 2001-2014
• Chairman of audit and risk 2014-2020