The introverted young woman who wanted to be a scientist and spent 10 years managing a building business is fully focused leading a regional council.
After years teaching and consulting in ecology and 10 years' managing her husband's business Horizons Regional Council new chairwoman Rachel Keedwell stormed on to Horizons Regional Council in 2014.
"I struggled looking at what humans are doing to the world and felt like I needed to do something," she said.
Campaigning took her right out of her comfort zone but she was forced to grow and started to enjoy it. A virtual unknown, she polled second highest of 12 in the Palmerston North ward.
"To me it felt like my two worlds had come back together," she said.
A self-confessed pessimist, Keedwell feels whatever action people take in response to the wider ecological crisis that includes climate change will not be enough. But she wants the council to do what it can.
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It won't be maximum change as soon as possible - because if change is too abrupt it will be overturned, and she wants it to last.
The current council is well balanced, with voices for dairy, forestry and horticulture as well as urban and the environment. The current councillors are active and engaged.
"No one goes to sleep around the table any more," she said.
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Keedwell said she would work for consensus and that the group's decisions should be durable.
"With all those different voices, if we can come to an agreement, it's going to be a really strong place, taking on all the issues that need to be addressed."
It worries her that Horizons could spend millions on getting a change to the One Plan without anything improving on the ground and also that Government's essential freshwater package could overturn it.
Environment Minister David Parker is resolute to land a package drawn up by scientists "without enough attention to how it will look", she said.
The overall priority will be a core role of the council - environmental stewardship.
"If we get that right, everything else follows."
Keedwell was prompted to stand for Horizons after it decided to cut its entire biodiversity budget - which caused an outcry.
The councillors of the time represented business and farming, but not the environment, she said.
In her first three-year term she felt like "a lone voice in the wilderness".
She kept talking anyway, mentored by former councillor Jill White, and people started hearing the message.
When Whanganui councillor Nicola Patrick was elected in 2017, she was very happy.
"I remember jumping up and down so hard I thought I had broken the floorboards."
The two supported and strategised together, and their two voices had more than twice as much influence. Now the 2019 election has landed more environmental councillors.
Before it Keedwell and Palmerston North councillor Jono Naylor agreed they wanted a change of chair, and both were keen for the job. It hadn't been a long-term goal for Keedwell, but something that "just came up" on her. They agreed to support each other.
She became chairwoman in a 7-5 vote and nominated Naylor as deputy - the only nomination.
She is paid $143,000 a year for the role, and can choose a vehicle valued up to $65,000. It's not enough for a fully electric vehicle to do all the kilometres she envisages.
Keedwell has chosen a Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid Eclectic that will use 1.1 litres of fuel per 100km within its 60km plug-in range - compared with 8-9 litres for most cars.
She plans to spend Monday to Wednesday in the office, and get out talking to people - especially farmers, on Thursday and Friday.
So far the new role has been "crazy" busy.
Keedwell was brought up in Paekakariki and Wellington, then Palmerston North from the age of 14. Her parents separated early, and she has five brothers and sisters who have all lived together at times.
In Palmerston North she went to Awatapu College, where she "struggled to find a place at times" but did well academically, as well as playing sport and music.
Her mother always thought she would be some kind of "ist" when she grew up - perhaps a scientist.
She went to a week-long science camp in Auckland after her Year 12, and had a "lightbulb moment" in the conservation part.
At Massey she did a degree in botany, broadened with Spanish, yoga and Aikido during an exchange year at the University of California Santa Cruz.
Then she did a post-graduate diploma in wildlife management at Otago University and taught in it, then went to Twizel to help manage a group of 20 trappers protecting riverbirds from predators.
That work led to her PhD in river recovery, from Massey University, and more ecological contract work.
Back in Palmerston North from 2002, she met Steve Brown at her yoga class, and they married 18 months later. She said her husband is "a really, really amazing builder" but not such a good businessman.
Being analytical and systematic, she "Rachelised" his business and made it successful.
They chose to have only one child and she gave up her part-time work in ecology to run the business and spend time with son Zachariah during his childhood.