Sitting at the Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) Conference Excellence Awards dinner this week in Christchurch with the mayor and my councillor colleagues, someone at the next table congratulated us on being finalists.
There were six categories. Rotorua Lakes Council had submitted an entry in three of them and we were finalists in all three.
No mean feat considering a total of 70 entries were received covering all categories.
I was asked if I was feeling lucky. I said I was. I could have said my expectation was that we'd win each of the three categories we entered because that was my expectation. But I'd have been wrong. We only took out two of the three awards.
We did, however, for the fourth year running, receive the Judges Award for Performance Excellence and Community Outcomes. We shared this award with the Palmerston North City Council.
It may sound somewhat big headed to say my expectation was we'd take out all three awards but when you're part of a winning team that is how you feel. And I have felt that way for some time now.
For the past five years we had a plan, followed the plan and now it's paying off.
Things have changed rapidly in local government and the status quo no longer cuts it. I felt that every award finalist would have been a worthy winner.
The various projects and programmes entered covered: best practice governance, asset management, community engagement, economic development, environmental impact and cultural vibrancy. All embraced innovation and many included major community input in their design, development and support.
As a third-term councillor, I think back to when I first came on board. There were four of the 12 councillors who had nearly 30 years of council experience each under their belt - In my view far too long in the job. Any job if you ask me.
It's not about whether people are doing a good job or not, after so many years, it's about refreshing the ideas and thinking at the table that matters.
Who says we have to do things the way they have always been done before? We don't.
New ideas and thinking come from those not wedded to the past but are receptive to change.
These ideas are often promoted by new people who also want the opportunity to contribute to their city and district's future plans and growth.
It's about diversity too.
A few years ago Te Aka Mauri Library and Children's Health Hub would never have got off the ground. The revitalisation of the Rotorua inner city would never have happened in the way it has.
You have to have the right people in the job. You have to stop listening to people who say "that's impossible". It's just someone's opinion. You have to build in resolve and sometimes you have to be prepared to be wrong.
After one term as a councillor, I thought I wouldn't hang around. I wanted to work with people who understood that our community wanted change, wanted a say.
There were voices that had never been heard, never consulted and who felt excluded.
I wanted to work with people who could firmly focus on the future and not get distracted by those who felt they deserved to be heard over others. That their voice mattered more. To me, they didn't - everyone matters.
And as always happens when things change at the top, you get a ripple down effect.
Only in the council's case, it's been pouring. Raining ideas, concepts and divergent viewpoints.
Within a few short months in 2012 we got a new chief executive in Geoff Williams and the community elected a new mayor, Steve Chadwick.
As a council, we started a journey of shifting our consultation and engagement directly to communities.
We have seen citizens, iwi organisations, businesses and community groups getting involved in the design of local services to ensure they address the issues that matter most.
This means that services are more responsive, better focused on issues and delivered in a manner which is consistent with our values and culture.
Local government is big business. It requires a diverse group of people at the table. In my view it also requires young minds to strengthen it.
I would love to see younger members of our community put their hand up in next year's local government election. There's nothing wrong with being part of a winning team.