Twelve months ago, Stacey Rose was the dark horse no one saw coming.
The then-19-year-old barber stood for a councillor seat in last year's local election not to win, but to highlight the youth voice in local politics. He had planned to pull out of the race early but, on the eve of the nomination deadline chose to stay on.
But no one opposed him. The number of Tauranga candidates matched the number of seats so he won one, no voting required.
Rose, who by election day had turned 20, breezed into the Bay of Plenty Regional Council in shock.
The former youth MP joined a team of 14 councillors representing a population estimated at 305,700, spread over seven territorial authorities, on a regional council with assets valued at more than $705 million.
He tells the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend he has thought a lot about what happened.
"I've thought about that long and hard and in a couple of ways, it's been a good journey.
"I think I'm very lucky. I'm very grateful to have been elected the way I was but, of course, there's been backlash."
Rose, who celebrated his 21st birthday on Thursday, says he received some "grief" in the first few months after the election.
"People thought I wasn't properly elected but really, if they had put their name forward, I would have had to fight for the position. I would have fought well and hard," he says.
"If they didn't like it, they should have put their name forward."
Rose's unconventional entry into local body politics has not diminished his efforts to represent and advocate.
In addition to Rose's role as councillor, he forms part of the Rangitāiki River Forum; Public Transport Committee; Komiti Māori and is regularly a vocal contributor in meetings.
And he loves it.
Rose, of Kai (Ngai) Tahu descent, says public transport, the environment and bringing a youth voice into decision-making remained key passions for him.
He has already been active in bringing to fruition the introduction of the Bee Card, championed by councillor Andrew von Dadelszen , and including young people in Annual Plan deliberations.
"I think it has been a really good first year," he says.
Rose says he is grateful the council environment was respectful, particularly in light of troubles at Tauranga City Council in recent weeks.
"There have been times where I've sat there and thought 'should I really be at this table?'
"But that's mainly due to how I got elected. There has been discussion about age but really, I just want to be respected. I am an equal. It's just that the other guys are in their 50s, 60s, 70s whilst I'm in my 20s."
Rose says he is proud to be a younger voice at the council "and give councillors something to think about". He hopes his contribution helps in decision-making on issues that would have impacts for future generations to come.
But the weight of responsibility grows heavy.
Rose threw in his career as a barber for the councillor role and admits he misses it.
"Oh hell yeah. For me, I've just been focussing on council full time. I did go back to the barbershop in December and January but now ... I'm going to see if I can do weekends."
It is not unusual for elected members have other commitments in addition to their council role. Most others at the regional council have several, including chairman Doug Leeder who is a director at the Port of Tauranga.
Rose is waiting to hear back from a local barber's about whether they'll take him on. He hopes so.
"It actually means being able to talk to people without feeling like I've got all of this responsibility on my shoulders. In the barbershop I wouldn't be a councillor first, I'd be me," he says.
"The other thing is I like working hard. As a councillor, we work hard but it's mostly mental and I like to do the physical work as well. I miss standing on my feet giving a man a really good haircut."
Rose also feels he would also keep a stronger connection to his constituents.
He was proud to represent Bay of Plenty people and wanted to do right by them, especially having experienced the "learning curve" of the first year.
"I'm really enjoying it ... learning when to talk, when not to. It's been quite an experience ... you are never going to learn it all with the click of a finger. It will take time."
When asked what words would best sum up Rose's first year as a councillor, he responds with: "Exciting, challenging and very, very fun."
"Let's see what happens next year."
An unconventional entrance
• On August 16, 2019, nominations for local election candidates closed.
• The number of Tauranga candidates for the Bay of Plenty Regional Council matched the number of seats, so all five candidates were elected without a single vote being cast.
• Rose joined the council with four other re-elected Tauranga councillors, effectively taking the seat left by outgoing councillor John Cronin.
• Polling day was on October 12 and the new council was sworn in on October 21.one