Kerry Stevens is heading to the Timaru District Council table after convincingly winning the Geraldine Ward by-election.
When the 2215 votes were counted yesterday, Mr Stevens, former Geraldine High School principal and Geraldine Community Resource Centre manager, had 976 votes, 346 ahead of his closest rival, farmer Donald Aubrey (630). Polling third was Geraldine Community Board member and previous district mayoral candidate McGregor Simpson with 358 votes, while Orari farmer Roger Payne got 239.
Three informal votes and nine blank voting papers were returned.
The by-election was required after the sudden death of ward councillor and district deputy mayor Michael Oliver in August.
"I'm very pleased with the level of support, I'm humbled," Mr Stevens said. He said he had been up against three good candidates.
He suspected his high profile in his role as principal, involvement in community groups, and more recently his role as a community board member and involvement in the resource centre, meant people knew him, and, based on that, had opted to vote for him.
Mr Stevens considered the main challenge for him now would be to get up to speed with council matters so he could "play a full part as and when required".
He did not have a pre-set agenda but rather an "open mind and a willingness to learn and contribute".
While there are fewer than 12 months left of the council's present term, Mr Stevens said he intended to stand again next October, at an election which he hoped would be contested in the Geraldine ward.
He believed he would be able to contribute a lot more in his second council term.
Mr Stevens said there were some Geraldine-based issues the council needed to consider, including a number of planning matters, and the aftermath of the bitterness and divisiveness the recent representation review had caused in the community.
Mr Stevens' election leaves a vacancy on the community board.
The voter return for the by-election was 54.1 per cent, up slightly on the triennial election two years ago when 51.3 per cent was recorded. Geraldine voters did not vote for either ward or community board representatives at the last election, only for the district's mayor, the Geraldine Licensing Board and the South Canterbury District Health Board.
Electoral officer Mark Low said traditionally the voter turnout for a by-election was lower than at the triennial election.
- The Timaru Herald