As fate would have it, come October 17th or thereabouts, when election returns are officially certified, Councillor Derek Brownrigg, by virtue of being unopposed for his seat, will become Hastings’ only duly elected and empowered officeholder.

You see, the other individuals who are elected, including the mayor, cannot act until they are formally installed at the first meeting of the new council, which won’t occur until October 30th.

So for approximately two weeks, Derek Brownrigg is the Grand Poobah (GP) of Hastings … it’s his town!

GP’s chief duty in this period is to chair the all-important Interim Tenders Committee so that the council’s contractors can be kept busy. Fascinated by how GP Brownrigg might exercise such absolute and unbridled power, BayBuzz secured this exclusive pre-dictatorship interview with the Councillor. Here are his plans.

BayBuzz: Derek, what’s the first thing you’ll do when you assume the Grand Poobahship?

Derek: First I’ll put an end to this informality … in fact, you’d better get used to it right now. I expect to be called “Your Grand Poobahship.” Rank has its privileges in these parts. And “Your Worship” is already taken by the mayor.

BayBuzz: OK, Your GP, then what?

His GP: Well, I’ll be moving into the mayor’s office. I’m having it re-decorated in French Provincial and painted in Baby Blue hues.

BayBuzz: Isn’t that being pretty extravagant with the ratepayers’ dollars, Your GP, considering you’ll only occupy the office for two weeks?

His GP: That’s why I voted against that $50,000 “partnership signal” to Sam Kelt. I had my eye on those funds. Now, unfortunately, my re-decorating will come out of the food bank program, and I think the ratepayers should blame the Sam Kultists.

BayBuzz: How about the policy front? What do you hope to achieve while you are GP, Your GP?

His GP: Given the time constraints, I’ve been whittling down my goals to just a few very high priorities.

First, I’m announcing a new economic development grant to entice a new cafe to locate with one block of the council offices. That cafe over by the exhibition centre is too expensive and doesn’t have a decent sausage roll. I believe a little competition will raise the bar.

Second, I’m going to sign an executive order postponing the first meeting of the new council until October 30, 2008. Extend my rule. Pretty clever for a rural councillor, no!? That’s why Mick Lester wouldn’t take me on.

Third, I’ll sign all those bits of paper, tenders I think they are, that CEO (Chief Exiting Officer) Gilbertson will be putting before me. As I understand it, the idea is to keep the cash flowing … don’t print that … wheels of government rolling during this critical two week window.

BayBuzz: Your GP, can you give me an example of cash flowing “wheels rolling” that’s sooo urgent and important that you and the CEO must grease the skids over these two weeks?

His GP: Sure, there are all our lawyers and consultants … you know how busy they are plotting important stuff by the hour. And they get pretty testy when their checks are late. Then, regrettably, there’s Sam Kelt’s payment. And more petty cash for refreshments in the Councillors’ Lounge … think how unseemly it would be for new councillors, if there are any, god forbid, strike that, to show up for their first meeting and be served leftover biscuits!

BayBuzz: Speaking of new councillors, Your GP, wouldn’t it be more fair to wait until they were officially on hand before signing too many of the CEO’s “emergency” tenders? Perhaps they would have different priorities?

His GP: No way, Jose! We can’t take that chance! Take the regional sports complex, for example. What if the new council didn’t want to proceed with it? We’ve got to sign the tenders to get those bulldozers turning ground out on Percival Road immediately. That way, we have big momentum — the Big Mo — on our side. A new council couldn’t possibly roll back the ‘dozers.

BayBuzz: Your GP, this sports complex example … that was a joke, wasn’t it … just a hypothetical, right?

His GP: Er. Uh. Cough, cough. Sure. Just a joke. It’s just Phase 1 … the new track.

(Phone rings) Excuse me a moment. (Answers phone and listens) Not right now, Murray, my wrist is too sore. Bye.

Sorry, BayBuzz, got to run, my limo’s waiting … so little time as Grand Poobah … and so many tenders to sign. And I don’t even get a temporary pay hike for carrying this load!

BayBuzz: It’s a tough but noble assignment. Government could not continue without you, Your Grand Poobahship. Enjoy your new office.

His GP: Hey, don’t your readers want to know my favorite Kiwi and what book I’m reading?

Tom

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