What started as providing casual community advice to her cafe customers has led to a full-fledged campaign to become the next Far North district mayor.
Bay of Islands-Whangaroa ward councillor Kelly Stratford has thrown her hat in the ring for the region's top job, keen to extend her patch to include all Far North residents.
The mother of three brings a range of life and professional experience, including 10 years as a pharmacy technician, a cafe and bookstore owner, Kawakawa Business Association secretary, and other governance roles.
Stratford (Te Kapotai, Ngāti Hine-Ngāpuhi) hails from Kawakawa, one of the many communities she represents, and now lives in Haruru with her whānau.
She said she'd always aspired to get into politics, but it wasn't until a fierce storm wreaked havoc on her home that she found herself called to get involved in local government.
"I actually always wanted to be prime minister growing up as I really enjoy seeing change come from decision-making," Stratford said.
"About seven years ago our roof blew off after a mini-tornado ripped through our area, leaving our house exposed to two weeks of rain following its aftermath.
"I rang the mayor saying he needed to declare a state of emergency for our area, as the road into Kawakawa was gone and had cut off the state highway.
"While he was really helpful, he didn't end up declaring it a state emergency and that's when I decided I needed to get involved in the council."
And she did just that, first being voted in on the community board as part of the 2015 byelection, and again in 2018.
Finally, in 2019, she was elected to local government where she became a councillor for the Bay of Islands-Whangaroa ward.
The role of councillor has been a natural progression, explained Stratford, who for years counselled hundreds of people through her various community advocacy positions.
Stratford said many people had made a big impression on her life, but it was three strong women she loved and admired who had meant the most.
"I remember my nanna, my mum's mum, volunteered for years with the St John Op Shop and my other grandmother in Auckland was always involved in various meetings," she said.
"Pattie Meldrum, former Kawakawa Business Association chair, is another person who shaped how I thought about life and was like a second mother to me.
"She was always very busy and stood up for people and gave me that oomph to pursue my dreams."
Since becoming a councillor, Stratford has been instrumental in navigating the Dog Management Bylaws pertaining to the right to walk dogs in public spaces.
She explained small dogs were a big deal in the region and as such, had navigated the development of that particular bylaw.
As a result, she helped retain the ability to walk dogs on certain beaches.
Stratford said she was also proud of her stance on climate change and how in 2019 moved a resolution to take action.
This, she explained, had resulted in FNDC now having a Climate Change Roadmap as part of the wider Te Tai Tokerau Climate Adaptation Strategy.
In terms of what she'd like to achieve as mayor, Stratford said improving water services was a big-ticket item on the agenda.
"Three Waters is all about making sure we improve non-compliance wastewater treatment plants and that everyone has equitable access to drinking water," Stratford said.
"I, therefore, support having an independent regulator enforcing drinking water standards, as I can see the need for a different way for our three waters to be provided.
"It is decision-making not just lack of finance that has got our three waters infrastructure into such a poor state.
"There's a lot of misinformation out there, as the original proposal for entities didn't have a local level of involvement, but this new one does."
Stratford said encouragement from friends, family and residents to stand for mayor had made her determined to take her representation to the next level.
She said she had a lot of courage and experience in local government and believed she was the right person to take the Far North district forward.
"I want people to know I'm standing for the people, so this is not about me, everything I do is for you, the people," Stratford said.
"I'm a learner as well, so if there is something happening that I don't understand, I'm not afraid to ask.
"I'm here to empower and have created a volume of work this triennium that I am committed to and invested in continuing to progress what we've already started."