After an intense five-month campaign, Tenby Powell has ridden a wave of change to become Tauranga's next mayor. He got the news on Saturday afternoon while out collecting his election hoardings. The 24 hours that followed have been a whirlwind of victory parties, congratulations handshakes, quiet family celebrations and hundreds of txts, emails and Facebook messages. He also met with Bay of Plenty Times reporter Samantha Motion to talk about how he got here, and what comes next.
"This city needs healing."
That's the message from Tauranga's new mayor, businessman Tenby Powell, who says he will bring a divided city back together.
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Powell, 59, won the mayoralty of New Zealand's fifth-largest city with an emphatic 4654-vote margin over incumbent Greg Brownless, who will step down after one term.
With more than 95 per cent of votes counted, Powell had 16,940 to Brownless' 12,286.
At a victory party on Saturday night at Classic Flyers the father-of-two told dozens of gathered supporters it was "time for the old guard to let go".
Powell told the Bay of Plenty Times he knew there would be some disappointed with the election result, but has called on people to "put away the hatchets" and find a way to work together.
That extended to the councillors. Five new councillors have been elected, alongside five re-elected incumbents. Three incumbents did not run for re-election and three lost their elections.
Powell has already promised he will be mayor for no more than six years.
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"This job is not a career, it's a service."
He said he hoped to elect a female deputy mayor but the final decision will come down to skills and experience, not gender.
Powell moved back to Tauranga - the city where he grew up, attending Otumoetai College - from Auckland in May to campaign fulltime.
But he said he had been planning and talking about having a run at the mayoralty since at least 2016.
He and his wife, high-flying entrepreneur, investor and businesswoman Sharon Hunter, have put their $20m Westmere home on the market and will move to Tauranga permanently.
Powell, an Honorary Colonel in the New Zealand Army, said he was "thrilled" with the election result, and to be able to celebrate it surrounded by family including his wife, young adult children and mother.
"I look forward to doing what I said I would do, which is bring Tauranga the proven leadership it deserves."
He credited his win to a strong digital media strategy, more than 500 meetings with people in the community, his campaign manager Sally Cooke and her "incredible team" at Tuskany and "a bit of luck along the way".
He said he had felt "really embraced" by the city throughout the campaign.
"People say it's been a tough campaign but the reality is it's been 85 per cent great, 10 per cent good and only 5 per cent tough."
While being interviewed at Kulim Park with Hunter on Sunday, a young mum approached to tell him how happy she was with his election.
She said everyone she knew in her age group was "buzzing" and looking forward to him bringing change the city needed.
Powell said it was not the first time that had happened.
The results showed the city wanted some change, he said.
Powell said he could not see Hunter taking on a traditional first lady or mayoress type role, but she had her own plans for how she would contribute in Tauranga.
He said he would be "super embarrassed" if anyone called him "your worship".
"It's just not us."
He said he was from a blue-collared background.
"I am equally comfortable sipping champagne with world leaders as I am sitting on a crate having a beer with the lads in a workshop."
He said that, after serving some final commitments, he would resign his Government positions, including as a New Zealand representative on the Apec Business Advisory Council and the chairman of the Government's Small Business Development Group.
He planned to attend the next Apec summit in San Diego in November, where he looked forward to advocating for Tauranga. The results showed the city wanted some change, he said.
He said his dream for his mayoralty was to develop and mentor the next generation of leaders, now in their 30s and 40s, and one day hand a highly-functioning council over to them.
Powell had a few other big dreams, including turning the Strand waterfront into an enclave along the lines of Wellington's waterfront with cool restaurants and company headquarters.
"The Farmers building has shown it can be done. I am talking about The Strand here - when people say to me 'you can't build on the other side of the railway line where the cars are parked,' - absolute nonsense.
"We can absolutely build down there, and having a great relationship with iwi to be able to do that."
He said he wanted the council to enable innovation and entrepreneurship.
"I have said for years this city is the epicentre for entrepreneurship and innovation. Something special is happening here. I truly believe the council should get out of the way."