Six years of non-stop hui and flights, late nights in the Beehive and chuckles with Winston Peters are over for Fletcher Tabuteau.
But in quintessential Fletcher style, he was still sharing a laugh on Monday.
"At least I'm not in a rush anymore," he told the Rotorua Daily Post, as his first flight to Wellington was cancelled over a speaker in the background.
Rotorua lost the local list MP after he failed to win an electorate seat and New Zealand First got 2.7 per cent of the vote, falling short of the 5 per cent threshold on Saturday night.
Deputy party leader Tabuteau had been number two on the party's list but was fourth in the race for the Rotorua seat, behind winner Todd McClay from National, Labour's Claire Mahon and Green Party candidate Kaya Sparke.
Things had not been looking good for New Zealand First, with dwindling poll numbers in recent months, two charges laid by the Serious Fraud Office over donations to the New Zealand First Foundation and criticism over the push by New Zealand First MPs for Covid-19 funding relief for the racing industry.
However, Tabuteau concedes Saturday's results were "really tough".
"I thought we would easily get over 5 per cent."
He had been New Zealand First's campaign manager and when asked if he had any regrets about the campaign, he said the party was discussing that privately.
"We ran a good campaign, an honest campaign."
Tabuteau has been a New Zealand First member since the party was established and first ran for the Rotorua seat in 2002.
He entered Parliament as a list MP in 2014, and during his last term in Parliament, he was Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade, for Disarmament and Arms Control and for Regional Economic Development as well as deputy chairman of the Finance Select Committee.
"To work on New Zealand's position around the world in terms of the nuclear ban treaty - that work was incredibly frustrating but rewarding."
Another "privilege" was "to engage with the rest of the world, to be part of our political trade negotiations, and to work on building up capability and the sustainability of the Pacific".
"That's been incredibly rewarding work."
Tabuteau (Ngāti Ngāraranui, Ngāti Rangiwewehi, Ngāti Whakaue) was born and raised in Rotorua, so seeing Provincial Growth Fund projects come to fruition had been "amazing", he said.
"Not only the policy we created but the work that's being done from it ... It's not just Rotorua locally, it's Kawerau, Minginui, Kāingaroa and Murupara. The change has already taken hold."
He was pleased to see a range of projects funded. In Rotorua that included everything from roading and housing to the Lakefront upgrade and Whakarewarewa Forest investments.
"There are still iwi and investors who are committed to the spas, building hotels, and that's on top of what we've done ... That's always what the Provincial Growth Fund was about. Creating opportunity ... And it will just keep growing."
But there have been heavy challenges for Tabuteau.
"People forget we are just normal people who have put our hands up to be counted and try and make a difference in our communities. And when you become a politician, especially in government, there is no spare time. There is no downtime.
"You do 15 hours a day, every day. I wouldn't come home for weeks. I wouldn't see my wife or my youngest daughter for weeks on end doing this job ... people just don't realise what's involved.
"You put your hand up and stick your head above the parapet and you become a target but you know I'm just a normal Kiwi. I was a teacher and a lecturer before this.
"In terms of getting the job done, I will proudly stand with my record compared to anyone else in terms of delivering as a local MP," he added.
"But politics turns it into something else and that's been incredibly frustrating and difficult.
"Having said that, on the ground in Rotorua it's been a real pleasure. People in Rotorua are amazing and have been amazingly supportive. That's been really nice and really positive."
He is unsure what he'll be doing next, but whatever it is, Tabuteau wants to remain busy and in Rotorua.
"This is my home, I whakapapa here ... And I love giving my all and working hard."
He believes there is "real potential" in Rotorua, regardless of Covid-19.
"It would be nice to be part of that future."
He will also remain part of New Zealand First but doesn't know if he will put his name forward for 2023.
"And never say never in terms of a political career but at this stage, I wouldn't want to guess. I am a family man."
When the Rotorua Daily Post asked Winston Peters in June about Tabuteau's strengths, he said Tabuteau was "a standout talent".
"I could elaborate but I'll be here for the next two hours ... Those sorts of comprehensive all-round candidates are very rare."
Tabuteau said this week that he and Peters would continue to be friends "no matter what happens".
He said he'd also worked with "really passionate" staff behind the scenes in Rotorua and Wellington "who have been able to achieve some amazing things".
"There is a massive team behind a single politician, getting the job done on behalf of New Zealanders."
Rotorua MP Todd McClay said he had "a huge amount of respect" for Tabuteau and although they were from different parties, they had agreed on many things.
"I am sorry to see him go ... He always wanted the best for Rotorua."
Labour's Tāmati Coffey, who is waiting for special votes to confirm whether he is back as Waiariki MP or not, said Tabuteau had "always been enjoyable to work with", particularly around Provincial Growth Fund projects.
"He'll be missed".
Mayor Steve Chadwick also wished Tabuteau well, describing him as "a thoroughly nice guy".
She said Tabuteau and his office had "always been very willing to help", playing "a key role" in enabling "transformational projects" in Rotorua.
"He can be very proud of that."