Bob Parker isn't everbody's cup of tea. He was elected Mayor of Christchurch in 2007, and for almost three years he faced all manner of criticism and cynicism, espeicially from the Left. And when he went to bed on Friday 3 September 2010, he was quite possibly wondering how he was going to turn around a significant deficit in the polls to his main challenger Jim Anderton.
We read yesterday's Press with interest, especially the story which we are highlighting here; it begins:
Bob Parker tends not to sweat the small stuff any more. A year ago, he was under the gun, poised for political oblivion. But September 4 changed all that.
Parker's performance and leadership in the weeks afterwards are thought to have turned the polls around and secured him three more years as mayor.
The Parker of 2010 reacted swiftly to any sign of criticism; he was ultra-sensitive and feeling the heat.
Now, two massive earthquakes have put his priorities into sharp focus and "playing silly political games" doesn't even rate, he says.
Before September 4, Parker was trailing Wigram MP Jim Anderton for the city's top job. His campaign was struggling to gain traction, and even an unofficial endorsement from Prime Minister John Key was not turning the tide.
All that changed at 4.35am on September 4, when the city awoke to a magnitude-7.1 quake and Parker, a former television personality, became the media face of the disaster.
Twelve months on, and Parker says he rarely thinks about what could have been.
"I really don't care. What has happened has happened. I'm here and working hard. I really don't spend the slightest bit of time dwelling on that. It seemed to be more of a question for the media and of more interest to them and my opponents than it was to me."
A year ago, he looked tired and resigned to his political fate. This week, he looked relaxed and refreshed.
The earthquake on 4th September was certainly a turning point in the Christchurch mayoral campaign. Parker became the public face of the Christchurch earthquake, and his years in front of the television cameras were put to good use as he reassured, comforted and encouraged those who had been affected by the first quake. He was returned as mayor by a handsome margin.
Then, without warning, came February 22nd; the Press story continues:
"We had taken a massive seismic hit and the damage was intense, but the shakes had begun to settle down by February and gradually we could see a return to some kind of normality."
February 22 dismissed such progress, and piled the pressure on Parker and other leaders to deal with an unprecedented tragedy.
Undoubtedly, it was his lowest moment in a year that placed challenge after excruciating challenge in his path.
Parker was in his office on the sixth floor of the Christchurch City Council building when the magnitude-6.3 quake struck.
He was thrown to the ground and hit the corner of a coffee table, breaking two ribs and injuring his already sore back.
After getting to his feet, he looked over the city, saw the huge cloud of dust rising from the ground and "lost it for a few seconds".
"I remember thinking how this could be when we were just starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel," he says.
"We knew then we had jumped from the frying pan into the fire. It was an awful moment, but then we just pulled ourselves together."
We don't propose to dwell on the February 22nd quake in this post, but once again Parker was the face of Christchurch, even with the injuries he'd suffered in the quake itself. His leadership was outstanding and inspirational, and he worked tirelessly for his citizens. He and his council may not have got everything right, but it wasn't for the want of trying.
There is still a long haul ahead for parts of Christchurch, especially the CBD and some of the eastern suburbs. But there's a positivity we've noticed this weekend that was missing when we last visited in June. Wherever we went yesterday the traffic was heavy, the shops were busy, and the sparkling, mild spring day showed Christchurch off at its best.
Bob Parker can't be thanked for the weather, but we reckon that today is the day to acknowledge his leadership over the toughest twelve months that any mayor in New Zealand has had to face since the Napier earthquake in 1931. There will surely be a knighthood awaiting Bob Parker at some point; perhaps in the New Year's honours list. It would be a fitting honour for a man who has served his city and its citizens with absolute commitment in the past twelve months.