Who’ll be the next deputy mayor of Wellington? Paul Eagle, now officially the Labour candidate for Annette King’s Rongotai electorate (with its 9000 majority), says he won’t resign from the council till he’s won the seat. As that seems fairly certain, Justin Lester will soon be needing to make a shortlist of names who could take over the job.
Will Wellington’s new deputy mayor be a woman? Three are possibilities.
Before the last council elections, there was an expectation that four-term councillor Iona Pannett might get the job, to reflect the relationship between Labour and the Greens, and to follow the tradition of choosing someone from a different political party (and someone of the opposite sex) – think of Kerry Prendergast with Alick Shaw, and Celia Wade-Brown with Ian McKinnon. But no. Justin didn’t follow their example. He went with Paul Eagle as a fellow Labour Party member.
Iona will no doubt be on everyone’s short lists again this year. But she is already in charge of some major council responsibilities, as chair of the strategy committee and portfolio leader for infrastructure and sustainability – big jobs, for which she has experience matched by almost no one else on the council. She is also recently widowed – her husband’s funeral was held at the weekend – leaving her as a solo parent with two young children, who might not wish to accept the extra no-let-up demands of the deputy mayoralty.
Second-term councillor Nicola Young (branded as right wing in the DomPost editorial on Saturday) is another who is well qualified for the job, with a broad political reach and a wide knowledge of Wellington. But she doesn’t seem to be a likely choice for Justin.
Then there’s first-time councillor Jill Day, who is already being mentioned by council insiders as a potential successor to Paul Eagle. After she was elected last year, the council announced that she was the city’s first Maori woman city councillor. Then when Justin appointed her to head the council’s Children and Young People and Iwi Partnership portfolios, he praised her effusively:
“I know Jill well and supported her during her campaign. She is enormously capable, she has strong links with her community which she has built up over many years and she will do a wonderful job as a Councillor.”
If he chooses her as deputy mayor, his council could then announce that Wellington had its first Maori woman in the role. However her lack of council experience is being questioned, though she could point to her lower-level work as a member of the Tawa Community Board. And her focus on affordable housing would complement the concerns of the mayor.
If not a woman, how about the small supply of longer-serving (male) councillors? Simon Marsh (in his third term) and Andy Foster (eighth term) don’t seem to be on anyone’s lists. But Green councillor David Lee (in his second term) is understood to be interested, though as he’s a doubter about extending the airport runway this would be a major point of difference with the mayor. (Unless of course Justin is pulling back from his earlier enthusiasm.)