New Waipa District Council Deputy Mayor Liz Stolwyk is pledging a full-steam ahead approach to her new role.
Stolwyk has been engaged across a range of projects throughout her two terms as a Cambridge ward councillor.
A day before her swearing in as the WDC’s deputy mayor, she said she was ready for the next phase.
“If I don’t give this 1000 percent, I would be so disappointed with myself. Those who know me know how driven I am. Now, I’m in this immensely privileged position and I don’t intend wasting it.”
Stolwyk becomes the Waipa District Council’s first woman deputy mayor. Rosemary Hill was deputy to Pat Allan’s mayoralty in the Cambridge borough pre-amalgamation era of the ‘80s. Both are among several women Stolwyk holds in high regard for their ability to hold the line at a time when there were far fewer women in leadership than there are today.
She knows she may be more ‘obvious’ as deputy mayor than was her predecessor Grahame Webber, certainly initially. “I’m a woman and I’m different, I have a young family and I have a profile here.”
The scrutiny is unlikely to unhinge her. Stolwyk has gritty women in her lineage, two of whom witnessed her swearing in last week – her mother Maria Stolwyk and mum-in-law Betsy Reymer. Both Stolwyk and husband Andrew Reymer’s families hail from tough, hard-working Dutch stock that has seen them succeed in New Zealand.
Stolwyk’s own success came early. She spent her early years in Edgecumbe and Ruawai, then completed her secondary schooling at Sacred Heart in Hamilton. The shock of moving from gravel roads and party lines to the city was big, but it centred her. Working with people was the goal, tourism was the conduit, and Stolwyk finished top of her class in her first year in Wintec’s foundation course in tourism.
Halfway through her second year, she was offered a position at Mystery Creek that proved even more attractive; four years later she left there as senior administrator for Fieldays. By then, she had met a young Andrew Reymer, who was running the tractor pull at Fieldays, but an undeterred Stolwyk was determined to go overseas for at least six months.
“I ended up working for Contiki in Europe until I was almost 30. Andrew and I had kept in touch and were married within a year of my coming home.”
There was a stint working under John Mitchell at the New Zealand Rugby Union, then a four-year period spent as the inaugural manager of the Cambridge Information Centre, which ended with the birth of her first child. When her son was just a few months old, Stolwyk was asked if she could ‘fill in’ at what was then Karapiro Domain. That was in 2004, and she is still there now – a cracking 15 years of successful development that has seen Mighty River Domain become a jewel in Cambridge’s crown.
Stolwyk always had her eye on the community and to helping the less fortunate. Parallel to raising their three sons, she and Andrew have fostered over 70 children through Oranga Tamariki – some for just a weekend, others for more than 18 months.
The same stimulus propelled her into local government in 2013. She decided to visit Cambridge’s sister city Bihoro in 2012 and found herself seated next to Grahame Webber on the nine-hour flight to Japan.
“By the time I landed it was pretty much decided I would put my hand up for council,” she smiled.
Taking on a leadership role in council wasn’t planned, but she is deeply honoured. She wants to serve the community to the best of her ability and has shuffled things around at Mighty River Domain to facilitate that. “I really want to make a difference, to help Cambridge grow and to make sure we take the community with us.”
In the meantime, life for Stolwyk will carry on as normal … family and fostering, hard work and languid camping trips made the richer by board games and no wi-fi.