'Creative listening' specialist topic for the woman committed to her community's concerns

Why doesn't it surprise us Glenys Searancke's birth sign's Scorpio?

Anyone who's ever rubbed shoulders with her, and that's a good slice of Rotorua's population, won't argue that she epitomises its feisty traits.

She's driven, gutsy, fiercely loyal; toss in the occasional sting in the tail and she's the complete astrological package.


Glenys chortles knowingly; Scorpios are humorists too.

Conscious much has already been written about this high-profile woman since she quit the council table after 30 years unbroken service, Our People's not rehashing the slings and arrows of that slice of her public life but there's no way we can pledge not to touch on it, the two are synonymous.

But let's firstly look at what went before and why she's become such a staunch advocate for more organisations than most know exist.

In a word Glenys Searancke's a "doer", her commitment to others recognised with a Queen's Service Medal in 1993.

Throughout our time together her phones, landline and mobile, ring constantly, all callers want a piece of Glenys, her wise counsel.

She considers it was having three brothers that made her a force to be reckoned with.

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Then there were her four years boarding at New Plymouth Girls' High.

"After the boys it was a shock to be surrounded by 227 female voices."

Glenys rapidly learned to have her own voice heard.

"I tended to be the one to speak up, ask for things for the class, dormitory, hockey team."

Her initial ambition was physiotherapy but with training restricted to Dunedin she wanted to be closer to home (Otorohanga), opting for nursing at Waikato Hospital.

She'd just passed her first state exam when a "massive" car crash put paid to ward work.

"I was with a male acquaintance, he drove through a bridge, we rolled down a river bank near Waitomo Caves."

The 'male acquaintance' escaped with a gashed forehead, a good part of Glenys was broken and bent.

When sufficiently recovered, she was assigned to light duties, they bored her.

She switched to Hamilton's Brains Commercial College, graduating with advanced diplomas in shorthand and typing; they carried her into the Education Department's vocational guidance division.

In 1962 20-year-old Glenys, her parents and younger sister sailed for the UK, to visit her mother's Yorkshire birthplace.

"My father was Aussie-born, I'm a first-generation New Zealander."

Back in Hamilton she joined State Advances, went to a ball on a blind date and to quote her "was smitten, so was he".

The blind date, set up by her brother, was with Graham Searancke, an accountant who, like her, came from Otorohanga.

"He had a fiancee in Australia, broke off his engagement."

Within a year the smitten couple married.

Their first son was a babe-in-arms when, in 1966, Graham was appointed office manager at Rotorua's Clyde Engineering.

Another son and daughter followed, Glenys became the archetypal stay-at-home mum of her generation.

"I thoroughly enjoyed it, the coffee mornings, I had the car on Thursdays, my bank and supermarket day."

When her youngest started school Glenys devoted herself to golf.

"I ended up Bay of Plenty junior handicap champion of champions, go to Springfield [golf club] and you'll see my name's up there."

By 1980 she was back working.

"A jack of all trades in a clerical capacity at the hospital."

She moved to Southern Cross Building Society as a teller, field officer for the Heart Foundation followed.

The foundation kick-started her community involvement although, in reality, that had begun with kindergarten, school and the Arawa Scouts committees.

The National Council of Women (NCW) attracted her.

"I was the Methodist church delegate, my kids went to Sunday school there."

Was this, we suggest, the genesis of her strong woman persona?

"Mmmmm, possibly, because they could see a woman prepared to speak, make submissions. When I stood for council NCW put me up.

"It was the days of wards, 25 candidates, 14 seats, I didn't think I'd get in, much to my surprise I did, obviously I must have been known by the people who vote."

Here there are words of wisdom for present council hopefuls.

"Talk to one person they're going to talk to 10."

Councillors weren't popular in her ice-breaker year.

"There was a 20 per cent rates rise after years of low rates . . . then it was the politicians who went out and faced the angry public, not staff, we nearly got thrown out of the Otonga Residents' and Ratepayers' meeting."

The workload didn't faze her.

"I had a very co-operative family, meetings were at night, that suited me, I'm a night owl, I liked debating, reading."

During her first council term Glenys was one of six women. Would she call it a girl power cartel?

Another knowing chuckle: "We worked well together, knew where we were coming from before going into meetings."

She continues to give thanks for the "creative listening" workshop she attended early in the piece.

"It was run by Ian Fraser [former television presenter] and gave me a good insight into letting other people do the talking before jumping in, answering back."

Musical theatre's been the other biggie in Glenys' life. She's been its secretary, president "three or four times", is a life member and heads the selection committee for upcoming shows.

Husband Graham introduced her to it.

Prostate cancer claimed his life in 2010.

"He was always there for me, we had a marvellous 46 years."

It was a major health issue of her own that cemented Glenys' community connections.

"After the birth of my second son I had a very big operation, I had it in my head if I come through this I'm going to give my time working in a voluntary capacity. When I recovered I felt it was a reprieve, I wanted to do a lot for Rotorua, that's been my motivation."


Born: Otorohanga, 1942.
Education: Otorohanga Primary, New Plymouth Girls' High.
Family: Widow, two sons, daughter, three grandsons, granddaughter.
Interests: Theatre, swimming, travel. "My organisations."
Community organisations past and present: School and Boy Scout committees, National Council of Women, Musical Theatre, Brass Band committee, Trustee Civic Arts Trust, Continuing Care Trust (Whare Aroha); QE Health Trust, Contract Trust (for those in mental health system), founded Springfield, Ngongotaha and Mokoia walking groups while with Heart Foundation, member Rotary West, former Zontian, 10-term councillor
On her life: "An interesting, challenging journey."
Personal philosophy: "One day at a time."