Palmerston North's newest city councillor was inspired to enter politics by the man he replaces.
Orphee Mickalad was a student in Tangi Utikere's history class at Freyberg High School.
It was around the time when Barack Obama was elected the president of the United States.
Mickalad says Utikere's teaching style got him interested in politics and his teacher encouraged him to run.
"So he was like 'why don't you just do it?'"
The student said he was too young and didn't feel ready.
But 12 or so years later, he did and took his opportunity when Utikere resigned from Palmerston North City Council to be the city's MP.
Mickalad says even though politically they may differ on some issues such as social policy, Utikere has always been supportive and provided valuable advice.
He says he is overjoyed to have won the by-election. When told he was leading the preliminary results "I thought 'what', I couldn't believe it."
Mickalad says he knows a lot of people didn't expect him to win.
He says he was running against people with well-established names – William Wood who stood in the 2020 general election, Darroch Ball a two-term New Zealand First MP, and Andy Asquith, who was the highest polling unsuccessful candidate in the 2009 council election.
He says his message and personal style resonated with people as did his inspiring story - didn't speak a word of English when he arrived, worked hard, went to university, worked at Parliament.
"I think people saw me putting my energy and all that I have behind my campaign to reach out to people and I think people bought into that."
He experienced some racial attacks during the campaign but says the community has been supportive and Palmerston North is a tolerant city.
His election shows the progressive nature of Palmy and that it is moving towards a better society, he says. Voters are more accepting people from different backgrounds can represent them on the council table.
Mickalad describes his campaign as professional and slick and people said to him "bro, you're everywhere".
Mickalad says the key to a good campaign is to surround yourself with the right people.
He was able to draw on friends with skills in areas such as videography to help his campaign.
His campaign was privately financed. There were donations from friends and family but no political party backing.
He saw the byelection as a once in a lifetime opportunity and this mindset brought out the best in him. "It's either go very hard or go home."
Mickalad's father, Yves, died five months ago in Australia, just before campaigning started. "I wanted to win this for my dad."
Mickalad arrived in the city in 2006 with his family as refugees. They had fled civil war in Congo-Brazzaville in central Africa.
He was made to feel welcome. "The people made a difference in our experiences as former refugees here."
Mickalad spoke French and four Congolese dialects when he arrived, but not English.
He is now not only fluent in English but an intermediate level Spanish speaker after studying the language at high school and university.
One of the platforms Mickalad ran on was stopping the "brain drain". The 30-year-old says most of his friends have moved out of Palmerston North to Auckland, Wellington, Napier, New Plymouth and, of course, Australia to access opportunities.
He says the way to keep people in Palmy is to encourage economic development and quality jobs so the young and brightest remain and help build the city.
On his campaign website, he says "our youth will inherit the future of our city" and that he is committed to being a councillor with an eye on the future.
He likes Palmerston North's natural environment but says the river needs to be cleaned up.
He also likes that Palmy is a small city and affordable compared to larger cities and that everything is within walking distance.
He has a master of arts in politics from Massey University and is studying law online through Victoria University of Wellington - two papers a semester.
Mickalad used to work in Parliament as National MP Chester Borrows' executive assistant and is currently an adviser at the Ministry of Education, co-leading the work around programmes that accelerate the learning of students who have been identified as needing further support.
For nine years, while a secondary and tertiary student, he worked as a storeman and shelf filler at Pak'N Save.
His Christian faith defines him in terms of values such as integrity and serving his community, he says. Loving your neighbour as you love yourself shapes his character and how he views the world.
Mickalad is named after his grandfather and Orphee is Orpheus in French. Orpheus was an ancient Greek hero.
Mickalad will take his oath and be welcomed to the council table at the next council meeting on March 3.
The by-election voter return was 27.23 per cent and 16,674 votes were received and counted.
Orphee Mickalad 7123
William Wood 5930
Darroch Ball 3378
James Candish 2261
Stefan Speller 1920
Vanessa Rozenberg 1493
Sarah Spillane 1310
Andy Asquith 1096
Nikita Skipper 407
Nathan Wilson 139
Ross Barber 90