Learning golf, appearing in Auckland house sale videos and with her arm around PM John Key at a black-tie function, Sarah Higgins was a dynamic high achiever who expressed joy in her accomplishments.
But the Auckland politician and real estate agent died suddenly at the weekend, shocking fellow politicians who knew her.
Higgins, a real estate agent for Barfoot & Thompson and member of the Franklin Local Board, was 25.
Andy Baker, board chairman, said her death was a shock.
"She was the youngest member ever elected to this board and probably one of the youngest to be elected in the whole Franklin area over many decades," Baker said.
"It's left the local board absolutely devastated at her loss. This is a loss not only for the board but for the community. It's such a tragic waste of a wonderful young life with so much to offer. Our thoughts are with her friends and family," Baker said.
Higgins was on the board for a three-year term and was in her early 20s when she was elected, Baker said.
She was not standing again for the board in this October local body elections, he said, adding her funeral was planned to be in Dargaville on Thursday, although that was yet to be confirmed.
Joseph Bergin, Devonport Takapuna Local Board chairman, also paid tribute.
"It's extraordinarily tragic to hear of the passing of a friend and colleague. Sarah Higgins was an absolute breath of fresh air for local government in Auckland and had the drive and focus to achieve so much more that lay ahead of her," Bergin said.
On social media, Higgins posted her photo with Key before a glittery backdrop.
"It was such a great night catching up with everyone and hanging out with friends. Loved it!" Higgins wrote, wearing a black outfit, her right arm draped around Key's shoulder.
She told of learning golf and also appearing in videos marketing Barfoot houses for sale in Papakura and Karaka.
Higgins' profile on the Barfoot & Thompson website said: "Combining the work ethic of her rural farm upbringing and with the skilled diplomacy required from a successful politician, Sarah is professional, hardworking and dedicated to achieving the very best results for her clients.
"Sarah made headlines in 2013 becoming New Zealand's youngest female politician. She continues to advocate for local communities with her seat on the Local Board and her involvement with local charity groups.
"Sarah is committed to making your next real estate transaction as smooth and stress free as possible by anticipating issues before they become problems and doing all the hard work behind the scenes," the profile said.
Bergin, who is 24, said people did not appreciate how difficult roles like his and Higgins' could be.
"A lot of people forget about how much stress there is," Bergin said, adding that he had helped her initially in a mentoring role.
Higgins' Facebook page has been updated, saying it is now "remembering Sarah Higgins".
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