By Don Farmer
Great working relationships are hard to find, and harder to maintain with the passage of time especially when it involves the media and politicians.
But that is what I have had for 12 years with retiring South Wairarapa mayor Adrienne Staples.
When she first whispered to me her plans to vacate the mayoral chair way back before the meeting at which she told her councillors I felt a mix of emotions.
Firstly, I was greatly honoured that Adrienne had enough confidence in me to know I would keep her confidence and not mention it to anyone until the day came when she would make it official.
Of course there was a spin-off for me as I was able to get a story ready in advance to break in the Times-Age and to sit on it until the moment arrived.
But more than that I felt as though I had lost a mate in local government because Adrienne has been an outstanding woman to have worked with.
For the 12 years in the job she has maintained a high level of professionalism but more than that she has shown she understands how the media works – which is certainly not the case with all elected officials – has a huge sense of humour and the rare ability to bite her lip when she didn’t quite get the rub of the green.
That last-named attribute should not be interpreted as meaning she was too timid to have a go when the need arose.
I can recall her ripping into me on an occasion when I accidentally put her in the poo with a couple of MPs by letting slip she was my source for a story which they were less than happy to have bandied about.
But after a reasonable outpouring of grief over the matter she was back to texting me jokes and taking the mickey out of me over the telephone as though nothing had happened.
The first time I met Adrienne I was impressed.
That was on Fitzherbert Street in Featherston when she was trying out for mayor in 2004 and had a battle on her hands as it was a well-contested election.
I remember walking away from that talk, turning to the photographer with me and saying “I think we have just met the new mayor of South Wairarapa” and so it became.
She quickly established herself in the role and has carried the flag for South Wairarapa ever since, through some fairly trying times especially when it came to fighting off attempts to marry Wairarapa with Wellington to create a Super City.
Some time ago she somehow got hold of my schoolboy nickname which I hesitate to reveal but, why not.
For many years I was known as Buck, some old friends still address me that way and I love it.
Adrienne began to refer to me as Buck, then as Buckie Boy, and would even address me in that way when I attended meetings of her council.
Try as I might to repay the compliment by establishing what she was called at school, I have not succeeded but for anyone who can enlighten me with the correct nickname there is a free drink in it for you.
Some years ago I joined the Times-Age team at the Relay for Life fundraiser for cancer research which drew teams from throughout the valley and beyond, including one from South Wairarapa District Council.
Completing my laps was an interesting exercise as out of bushes and from behind tents would sudden emerge the mayor of South Wairarapa, accompanied by councillor and close friend Solitaire Robertson, to drench me with water.
Apart from being a hard-working and determined advocate for her district Adrienne is a first class chairwoman who runs meetings in a friendly yet professional way and demands a high standard of dress, debate and commitment from her councillors.
She is talented in other ways too, most noticeably as being a top horsewoman.
Although she has decided not to give away local body interests entirely – she is seeking a seat on Greater Wellington Regional Council – Adrienne can rest assured she has done a great job as the district’s mayor and deserves any accolades that come her way.
Retiring mayor will be a hard act to follow
By Don Farmer