Keep grudges out of your heart, paintbrushes out of your hands and blockages out of your ears is the advice of a popular long-standing former mayor for the newbies elected around the country yesterday. Meng Foon was mayor of Gisborne from 2001 until this year, when he was appointed Race Relations Commissioner.
He remembered his first days in the role fondly, and said a good start for any successful candidate was to begin by thanking supporters.
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An informal meet and greet with councillors and senior staff was a good idea, before a day at Local Government New Zealand-organised "mayor school".
"I went to mayor school. That helped. Generally it's [run] by retiring mayors and they give some insights into relationships between the councillors, the staff and the chief executive, and your role as a governor."
That was important because many successful candidates were "hands on" types who had run their own businesses and came from a practical background.
"They find it quite difficult to become a governor. They're there to have a helicopter view of what the society need, and lawfully what they need to do. And sometimes they just want to put a spade in their hand and go fill up potholes, or paint the park benches, because they say , 'Why does it take so long [to get things fixed]?'."
The pace of local government could be a culture shock, especially for those who didn't have a council background.
"[But fixing the potholes and painting benches] is not your job. You can pressure the chief executive to have better key performance measures and timeliness."
Relationships were hugely important, especially with the council's chief executive, Foon said.
"One of the big sayings [at mayor school] is 'if the chief executive and the mayor don't get on, one of them will have to go'. You have to work as a team."
And always tell the truth, even if it's not pretty, he said.
"Tell the truth, all the time."
There would be many new friends made through the role and increased profile, but it was also important not to forget those who were at your side before the mayoral chains were draped around your neck.
"That's one of the downfalls of a lot of people, that they tend to gravitate with the new friends and then forget about the old ones — the ones who weeded the garden, made the cakes and put up the signs."
A well-organised diary, with hours or days set aside for personal and family time, was also vital.
"You don't have to be at the beck and call of everyone all the time."
Grudges against certain people or topics were best avoided, and it was important to listen to everyone, even if you couldn't help them.
"You've got two ears, listen a lot ... and you can only do your best, with the resource and with the support of your council. Sometimes I just have to say, 'look on this occasion, I can't help you'.
"But I always give them an answer."