NEW Manawatu District Mayor Margaret Kouvelis is mindful of the enormity and responsibility of her role, but does not feel alone or isolated about moving into such a challenging working environment.
While familiarising herself with the mayoral office at the Manawatu District Council this week, Mrs Kouvelis said it was a real privilege to be working with a high calibre of people in such a lovely environment.
“It’s the reason why I’ve got the energy to really commit myself to the job,” she said, “because the people I’m working with are all heading in the same direction.”
Mrs Kouvelis won the Manawatu Mayoral By-election from fellow councillors Steve Gibson and Barbara Cameron, and Palmerston North business owner Russell Johnson. She was first elected to council in 2010 as one of five Feilding Ward representatives.
“It’s a big thing and comes down to how quickly you can adjust to that. A positive environment makes it all happen as our relationships have already been forged in the past 18 months.”
She said that though the mayoral role was different, working with the people in local government was not, so “it’s not completely strange to me”.
“I don’t feel alone or isolated in anyway because there is tremendous support behind me, not only from councillors, but the office and operational staff as well.”
Mrs Kouvelis was especially grateful for the support she had received as a councillor from former Mayor Ian McKelvie (now the MP for Rangitikei) and Deputy Mayor Matt Bell. She also remembered a “special friend” and former Mayor, the late Audrey Severinsen.
“I never thought for one minute I would be in this role and I often think Audrey must be smiling and chuckling to herself.”
A district resident for 25 years, Mrs Kouvelis is hoping to be an “inclusive and collaborative” mayor.
“Leadership today is not about a person who has got all the answers and is telling people what to do. I think the problems and issues that face us in the 21st century are all about collaboration.”
She said that appreciating difference was important and worth celebrating.
“It’s not about getting people into the same mind-set as yours and I don’t believe in right and wrong in that sense. I believe it’s people’s different perceptions. I want to listen to that, appreciate it and, together, find a way forward.
“It does involve more skill and managing people but fundamentally it’s about respecting people and tolerating difference.”