Sir Tim Shadbolt: an unprecedented legacy deserves acknowledgment.
EDITORIAL: There’s a job the new mayor needs to do before anything else, if Invercargill’s incumbent Sir Tim Shadbolt is not voted back in.
And that is to decide how best to acknowledge his extraordinary legacy to the city and council.
Shadbolt, himself, has said his chances of making a return to the mayoral robes are slim, but if that’s the way the voters decide it then whether you supported him, loved him or loathed him, before the city starts afresh we should rightly honour the incredible length, and unprecedented character, of his service.
At the last council meeting, it was rather touching to hear the show of support for him from the public seats, at what might be the last council meeting he chaired.
* Sir Tim Shadbolt suggests plan for Invercargill mayoral robes if he goes
* Sir Tim Shadbolt mayoral candidate no-show, but the show goes on
* Sir Tim Shadbolt ‘still a mayor’ as he throws support behind walk group
So, if a small band of supporters can make the effort then surely, the new mayor (if there is one) can ensure their leadership of the city starts on the correct foot, and that’s simply by honouring the past before they stride ahead with new plans and visions.
Who knows what that acknowledgement might look like, and who knows if there is a budget for it?
For that matter, if he’s up for it, is there still a place in a different part of the civic firmament for Shadbolt if he is to leave office?
Perhaps the new administration might consider making him an honorary ambassador of the city?
With only a single-term interruption (1995-96) he has been Invercargill’s mayor since 1993, during which time he’s had no shortage of ardent critics as well as enthusiastic supporters.
In any case, his 2019 knighthood citation was right to call him an inspirational leader.
He’s inspired a great many things among different people, or the same people at different times – ranging from unalloyed admiration to seething consternation and frustration, to exasperated affection.
Throughout it all, the reliability with which he has been returned to office, typically by handsome margins, stands testament to the sense that the man and the voting community have shown abiding loyalty to each other.
Even now, clearly burdened by age and the issues behind the “leadership void’’ identified in the Thomson report, he is also seeking a role as a councillor.
The extent to which he is now seen as a fragile figure is of course relevant to the coming election, but if this month is likely to mark the conclusion of his mayoralty then that’s not to be confused with a dismissive rejection of it.
And it certainly cannot define it.
To put Sir Tim Shadbolt’s legacy into perspective requires us to stand well back. For decades he has been a fascinating, stimulating figure for locals and outsiders alike; famed for his often self-deprecating humour, his ability to puncture the pomposity, and the open way he so successfully courted the spotlight, using the attention as best he could for the benefit of the south.
To be voted out would inevitably sting. A balancing message, reminding him, and perhaps those who haven’t had the opportunity to marvel at his exploits during his lengthy heyday, would be no less than he deserves.
After all, Invercargill – in fact New Zealand – is highly unlikely to give rise to a mayoralty such as this again.