By Jerram Watts
“Mackenzie District Council, you’re speaking with Claire.”
Her voice is chipper and bright – expected from any receptionist, but this one is unique.
Claire Barlow is the receptionist at the Mackenzie District Council – but only for two more days.
On Wednesday she becomes Mayor.
The 47-year-old beat two sitting councillors – Graeme Page and Dave Pullen – to become the first female mayor of the city.
After working as a receptionist for seven years, Ms Barlow says she was ready for a change.
“I know the district well and the people well, I thought they were looking for something different and think I’m ready for a change,” she says.
On election night, Ms Barlow was leading Mr Page 795 votes to 765 – Mr Pullen languished on 354.
When she got the call on Saturday night, Ms Barlow says she was very pleased.
Less pleased was Dave Pullen, who decided not to stand for council after three terms – his third place finish putting him effectively out of local government.
“I’m pretty shell-shocked,” he told The Timaru Herald. “It seemed as if half of the voters deserted me. I did not notice any signs of that happening in the last few weeks.
“I guess the voters decided to pick a receptionist over experience.”
His throw-away comment particularly irked Ms Barlow. She said it was “unusual” and that Mr Page had called to congratulate her, but had heard nothing from Mr Pullen.
However, his comments are accurate, the voters did pick a receptionist - but one with council experience.
Ms Barlow has been meeting the public for years and as a council staff member, saw things she wanted to achieve but couldn’t from the welcome desk.
“I want to bring more unity, to have more communication with the district and to see economic progress – but not at the cost of our natural heritage,” she says.
And will she miss the front desk?
“Yes and no; after seven years I think I’m ready for a change. I’m still in the same community, still trying to achieve the same sort of thing, so no, I don’t think so.
“Fortunately for me, I don't have to move very far for my new job – I'm going to be the next floor up.”
source: newshub archive