End of a 27-year coun­cil ca­reer


Af­ter spend­ing 27 years on the Cen­tral Otago District Coun­cil, switch­ing off won’t be an easy task.

Out­go­ing mayor Tony Lep­per ad­mits he is dis­ap­pointed and shocked at the mar­gin he lost the may­oralty race to ri­val Tim Cado­gan.

Cado­gan re­ceived 5288 votes to Lep­per’s 2637.

‘‘I thought it was go­ing to be a close race but that was a mas­sive ma­jor­ity. I am re­ally dis­ap­pointed. I thought it would be re­ally, re­ally close and it wasn’t. The mood for change was far big­ger than I gauged,’’ Lep­per said from his Earn­scle­ugh home on Sun­day.

The change to district wide rates fund­ing had ‘‘hurt’’ his cam­paign, as had the mood for change.

‘‘We an­noyed a few peo­ple in Cromwell and farm­ers in the Manuherikia.’’

While sur­prised at the re­sults, he had a sus­pi­cion ‘‘change might hap­pen’’ and left his of­fice last week pre­pared, he said.

‘‘I did a real good job on Wed­nes­day. I cleared out all my files and I had all the to-do stuff in case it was go­ing to be Tim be­cause I thought change might hap­pen. Ev­ery­one asked, ‘what are you clean­ing out your of­fice for?’ and I said, ‘well, just in case. I don’t want to do it over the week­end’. I went in (on Satur­day) and took a cou­ple of pho­tos of horses off the wall and that was all I had to do. And hand the car keys in. I had thought it through. All the staff said, ‘you’ll be back on Mon­day’, but I said, ‘I wouldn’t be so sure of that’.’’

Lep­per en­tered coun­cil as a young 32-year-old in 1989 af­ter lo­cal or­chardists asked him to stand. He served four terms un­der Bill McIn­tosh, then three terms as Mal­colm Macpher­son’s deputy mayor be­fore be­com­ing mayor him­self in 2010.

‘‘I have en­joyed ev­ery minute of it...It is go­ing to take a lot to get out of your head..There is no come­back. I was go­ing to re­tire in three years, it just hap­pened three years early.’’

The past three had been the high­light of his 27-year stint and he had hoped for another three to see big projects through.

‘‘The worst thing is the past three years has been the high­light. I wanted to get back in which made it hurt more. I was com­mit­ted to get­ting in­fra­struc­ture projects up and run­ning.’’

Now it was time for a break be­fore look­ing for his next chal­lenge.

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