Familton takes pride in his past achievements
It has been close to three years since Alex Familton decided to give up the mayoral chains.Most people, particularly in Oamaru, know him as only that _ the former Waitaki mayor.However, Mr Familton has had a varied career over the past several decades, one that began in the farming sector. His father farmed on the Waitaki plains, as did is two brothers.For the past 40 or so years, Mr Familton and wife Heather have run a successful Angus stud at their 40ha property south of Palmerston, where they have about 30 animals, down from the 100 they had at the stud’s peak.
The couple also dabbled in the timber market, and Mr Familton believes the family would have planted about 500,000 trees over their years on the property. However, most of the family’s forestry blocks have been sold, and they now only look after a handful of small forested areas.During his involvement with farming, Mr Familton also gained degrees in both mathematics and physics and a diploma in education before he forged a successful teaching career.He taught at Waitaki Boys’ High School between 1965 and 1969, before spending two years in Canada, where he tutored and lectured part-time at the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver Island campus.
He also taught at Qualicum Beach Secondary School, also on Vancouver Island, for a short time before he returned to New Zealand with wife Heather.
The Familtons bought land south of Palmerston in 1971. The same year, Mr Familton took on a teaching role at East Otago High School, where he stayed until 1979 before a brief stint at Aparima College in Riverton.In 1980, he returned to East Otago High School, where he was principal until 1996.A few years later, he was persuaded to enter local politics.“It just grew,” Mr Familton said of his political career.“Firstly, I got on to the [Waihemo] community board in 2001, because people approached me and said I knew the community well and would I like to come and help.“I did one term on the community board and people said to me would I like to stand for council … so I said yes, I would. I stood, did a term on council (2004-2007), and the same thing happened in terms of becoming mayor.”Mr Familton was elected mayor in 2007, and was re-elected in 2010.He said he wanted the job not for himself, but to do what what best for the community.“I always tended to be community driven, rather than seeking to be a politician. In fact, I’m somewhat sceptical of people who are career politicians, people that deliberately go out to be politicians, because I think there’s tremendous value in life in having a career in which you’re deeply involved with
the community and grow to have an appreciation of how the wheels of a community work.”Mr Familton described his time as mayor as a “wonderful experience” and was proud of what he had achieved.That involved being heavily involved in projects such as irrigation, the enhancement of Friendly Bay, the North Oamaru Business Park, the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, and the early planning stages of the Observatory Retirement Village.
“They all had a very substantial effect on the base of the community,” he said.
“There was, in each of those cases, a solid group of community people who worked hard and knew what they were doing. My value was that I could support them and be part of the team as required.”
In late 2013, Mr Familton made the difficult decision not to seek re-election.
There were many reasons and “some were personal. But, putting those personal things aside, I felt there was a template set up that would live on for the next 20 years; 50 years, even”.“In a sense, I had completed a task and that was the most emphatic part of my thoughts at the time. I saw an opportunity to leave on my own terms in a positive way, with a feeling that Heather and I had done a job to our satisfaction and as far as I’m aware, the satisfaction of the community.”The end of his tenure was a sad time, Mr Familton said.“There was quite a despondent feeling _ but the compensation for that was the knowledge that you weren’t leaving people with anything to tidy up. It was generally all positive and that’s a good feeling.”
Since stepping down, Mr Familton has continued his involvement with East Otago High School and been involved with the planning of a new medical facility in Palmerston.
He has also been involved with the Waihemo Museum Trust, the Palmerston Lions Club and in an advisory role with the Palmerston Waihemo A & P Association, which plans to bring a Field Days event to the district in the future.
Familton takes pride in his past achievements