It was, as Charles Dickens might have said, the best and the worst of times for a wanderer to return to her hometown.
Whanganui District Council's property manager Sarah O'Hagan made the move from Auckland on August 18, 2021 - the day the country entered a Covid-19 level 4 lockdown.
"It was good timing in terms of getting ourselves here while we could still travel but all of our furniture was still in Auckland," O'Hagan said.
"We had bought our house here but we had nothing to put in it."
O'Hagan's full job title is general manager property and open spaces, one of the council's eight executive leadership roles.
It is a broad brief incorporating buildings, pensioner housing, parks, trees, cemeteries, an opera house, an art gallery, a port undergoing extensive renovations, and even an airport.
With a background in local and central government roles including Auckland Council, the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Social Development, O'Hagan said the responsibilities of the position didn't faze her although she had never been responsible for the oversight of an airport before.
"I have done some civil aviation safety training. I've had to pass some tests and I can honestly say I've really enjoyed it and it has been one of the highlights for me so far.
"Although my team and I are responsible for buildings and public spaces, it's more about people than bricks and mortar. It's about making sure that all those amenities and services are working for people and it's about listening to the community. It's not so much a property team as a community assets and services team."
Despite having to work remotely for much of the nine months she's been in the role, O'Hagan said she had been enjoying her interactions with the community, council staff and elected members.
"Aside from the distractions and changes of focus caused by the Covid-19 Omicron variant, I've come into a really dynamic and interesting environment," O'Hagan said.
"Another highlight for me has been the consultation on waste minimisation. I really appreciate the fantastic planning and consultation work that's been done and it's a great time to become involved because it's a big change for Whanganui."
Finding her feet and keeping things ticking over efficiently during an uncertain time had also provided a great sense of satisfaction, she said.
O'Hagan's previous roles have led her and her family to locations as near as Feilding and as far away as Christchurch, Central Otago and most recently Auckland.
"We wanted to experience Auckland and I did enjoy working for Auckland Council but it did get hard living in the most locked-down place in the country," she said.
"Even without the effects of the pandemic, it did feel like the right time to come home. My husband is from Whanganui as well so we have family and friends here and it's been a good move for us. We had roamed around the country for a long time and it's nice to be back."
O'Hagan said she looked forward to working in the community and for the community as things began to move forward and the Omicron spread slowed down.
"Although I expect to be here for a lot longer, I use a three-year measure for attainment and I aim to see that all dimensions of the community are able to function well within the machinery of the council operations I'm responsible for.
"We need to look after council assets and take them into the future."
O'Hagan replaced previous property manager Leighton Toy who spent eight years working at the council and left to take up a career in real estate last year.