Gary Kircher has been elected mayor of the Waitaki District, securing 3163 votes in the polls to beat closest rival Jim Hopkins, with 2759 votes.
After a long campaign, Mr Kircher said he was thrilled with the result, and humbled by the support from the community.
“It’s really pleasing that so many people are quite excited about the election result,” he said.
“Hopefully I’ll work well and achieve the things that gave people confidence to vote for me.”
The Oamaru ward is now made up of Jim Hopkins (3401), Hugh Perkins (3244), Melanie Tavendale (3084), Sally Hope (3012), Peter Garvan (2786) and Colin Wollstein (2704).
Kathy Dennison (586) was elected onto the Waihemo ward, while William Kingan (926) and Sharyn Price (584) will represent the Corriedale ward.
“The new councillors had a lot to offer and will really bring some great skills to the council table,” Mr Kircher said.
“There’s a really pleasing mix – some young ones, as well as some good experienced people.”
Looking ahead, he’s excited to meet with the “great team” of councillors, appoint a deputy mayor, sort out structures to “best serve the community” and achieve the goals he has set for the next three years.
In particular, he said he had placed a focus on improving the way the community perceives the council.
The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail was an exciting prospect for the Waitaki District, and Mr Kircher said he would also be doing what he could to foster business growth and development.
“The district will move forward in a way that [the community] want to see it move forward – in a positive way,” he said.
The election results came just one day after his fiftieth birthday, which he celebrated with friends and family on Friday night.
He expressed his sincered thanks to all those who supported his campaign, particularly his family and wife Kerry, and acknowledged all of the other mayoral candidates.
“Campaigning together, you get to know them really well,” he said.
Mr Kircher said they presented a lot of good ideas for the future direction of the Waitaki District, and he looked forward to making “the best of them” happen.
Coming in 404 votes behind Mr Kircher, Mr Hopkins said he was still digesting the result yesterday afternoon.
He was, however, comforted by the fact that the highest vote for anyone in the district was his as councillor.
“I’d like to see the votes for council and mayoralty reversed,” he said.
“[But] the people have made their choices. We have a council and we have a job to do.”
Mr Hopkins congratulated Mr Kircher and expressed his faith in the two new Oamaru ward councillors – Colin Wollstein and Melanie Tavendale.
“They will be great… Commiserations to Helen Stead,” he said.
With 21 years’ local government experience, with three terms as a Waitaki District councillor and four terms as a Oamaru Borough councillor, Ms Stead was ousted as councillor for the Oamaru ward, being the seventh highest polling candidate with 2506 votes. She received 412 votes for her mayoral campaign.
Eric Spittal, the third highest polling mayoral candidate, said “in the scheme of things”, he was pleased with the result.
“I’m delighted to come third, with the support of a lot of very loyal people,” he said.
“I would’ve made a good mayor, but I hold no grudges. Gary Kircher is young enough to serve several terms and do well for the district.”
He was, however, disappointed with the voter return of 56.74 per cent.
“We live in a democracy that was hard fought for,” he said.
He looked forward to following the progress of the new council, with a good mix of age and gender.
“I’m delighted with the composition of council,” he said.
“I wish them all the very best going forward.”
David Wilson also expressed excitement with the new make-up of council and wished Mr Kircher the very best for his first term as mayor.
Mr Wilson said he “thoroughly enjoyed” his first campaign, and would not rule out running again in the future.
But for now, he’ll be watching how the council launch new initiatives under the new mayor’s leadership with interest.
The preliminary results show a voter return of 56.74 per cent, being 8839 voting papers, excluding special votes.
Other unsuccessful mayoral candidates Greg Smith, Helen Stead and Fliss Butcher did not respond to requests for comment by the Oamaru Mail yesterday.
By Rebecca Ryan