Many people complain about their local council - what it should or shouldn't do or what it should spend money on. Instead of moaning, they should get involved, says outgoing Matamata-Piako District Mayor Ash Tanner.
He says while being on a council means being "a part of getting things done", aspiring councillors should not come in with big agendas because they might be disappointed.
Other Waikato elected members also say talking to current councillors and mayors helped the most to prepare for the job.
Tanner says like many, he used to be a council critic too.
"I was always complaining. Someone told me 'well, you are moaning about it, you should stand'. And I did."
He stood for the Te Aroha ward in the 2010 elections and says he never thought he would get in.
"When I did, it was a very humbling experience, because I got in by the highest vote."
Tanner says the most important quality to have as an aspiring councillor is a focus on the community.
"You need to have the right intention. Let people know what difference you can make. Keep an open mind, but don't come in with big agendas."
He says one of the biggest learnings for him was that things take time.
"It seems simple from the outside, but there are processes to follow. As a businessman, for example, you've got the money, you've got a plan and you can start tomorrow. Being in council, you can't, because you are dealing with ratepayers' money."
Tanner says his favourite part was 'being part of getting things done'.
"Making decisions for the future of [the district]. Trying to help solve issues and helping people.
"You are giving back to your community, in a way because you give up a big chunk of your time and a bit of your privacy because you are a public official. But it is very rewarding.
"You help with decision-making for the betterment of the community and you are looking for opportunities to make the towns vibrant places where people want to come to live."
Tanner says people who are interested in standing should "just go for it".
He supports Local Government New Zealand's (LGNZ) call for more diversity saying councils had the reputation of being 'old, pale and stale'.
"We need a range of different people on councils, especially young people because they are representing a cross-section of the community. Young people bring a new lens to the table."
LGNZ, an association for councils across New Zealand, says the problem is that a lot of people don't realise that councils play a critical role in supporting the wellbeing of communities.
Chief executive Susan Freeman-Greene says she wants everyone to see local government as a powerful platform for positive change.
First-term Hamilton City councillor Sarah Thomson says local government shapes the environment we live in.
"If you look around, a lot of decisions have been made by councils: Houses, water, roads, parks, pools, playgrounds, ..."
Fellow first-term councillor Kesh Naidoo-Rauf adds: "You don't get bored [being a councillor], the role is very diverse."
Thomson says aspiring councillors need "a clear purpose" to do a good job in council. "And you need to understand what you can realistically change."
Outgoing South Waikato Mayor Jenny Shattock says listening, resilience and leadership were also important skills when standing for local government.
"You need to be bold! And be able to bring people with you. You can't do [the job] on your own. It's not about 'I', it's about we."
Naidoo-Rauf says candidates also need to be sociable. "Because you are meeting people all the time."
Some councils hold special candidate information events, like Waipā District Council next Tuesday, June 21 at 6pm at the Don Rowlands Centre.
On the same day there will be a panel discussion, Women in Politics: The Challenges and Opportunities, at Trust Waikato in Hamilton at 5.30pm. It will be led by former Waikato Times editor Venetia Sherson.
The panellists are Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate, Hamilton councillors Angela O'Leary and Kesh Naidoo-Rauf and Māngai Māori representative Te Pora Thompson-Evans as well as Waipa deputy mayor Liz Stolwyk. Also present will be Hamilton councillors Maxine van Oosten and Sarah Thomson Waipa councillor Susan O'Regan, who will invite attendees into small groups for conversations.
Matamata-Piako District Council is holding an online webinar next Wednesday, June 22, at 4pm at mpdc.nz/elections.