In just over a week, Jo Goodhew will leave the job she has been in the longest.
The Rangitata MP is standing down, and, like anyone leaving their workplace, is packing up her office and saying her thanks and farewells.
She is receiving thanks as well, and those texts and handwritten cards mean a lot, as they reinforce for her that in her 12 years as the local MP, she has made a difference.
“I’m really proud of what I’ve done. You don’t need to point to a built monument; I don’t need to say I made that particular bridge happen. I just know that the value of my work has been in combining an issue or problem or idea with a way to move it forward.
“I know the people who make things happen, who is who, what’s where, and those are some of the essential attributes of an MP.”
Mrs Goodhew is most proud of being as accessible as she possibly could be, and knowing that her intervention has made a significant difference in people’s lives.
“You use your role. It’s not Jo Goodhew, it’s the Rangitata electorate office. I’ve had to work hard to make people understand I wasn’t just there for National voters.”
There have been challenges. Just three years after being elected Aoraki MP in 2005, Mrs Goodhew lost a huge chunk of the electorate – the area that became part of Waitaki – under boundary changes, and took on Mid Canterbury as part of the new Rangitata electorate.
“It was one sucker punch. I was so sad that those people I had got to know were going to be in another electorate. And then I had to start all over again in Mid Canterbury. I spent a lot of Saturdays walking the streets of Ashburton, introducing myself to people, because it’s the best way to do it.
“I never thought I couldn’t do it. I recognised the enormity, but it wasn’t insurmountable.”
Other challenges have been the South Canterbury Finance bail-out, and the fatal shooting of two Work and Income staff in Ashburton.
The South Canterbury Finance situation resulted in electorate office staff dealing with threatening, angry phone calls, security personnel being required at the office, and Mrs Goodhew’s car being damaged.
“It was a tense, difficult time, but it made me so much stronger.”
She was in Timaru when she got word of the shooting at the Ashburton Work and Income office.
“I was completely blown away, and felt this absolute need to be there. But driving through Tinwald, with media reports he [the shooter] was hiding in the riverbed, and I’m taking my signwritten car over this river, I did feel scared . . . it was irrational.”
There was a sense of closure when she was able to, as Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, open the refurbished Work and Income building as Ashburton’s Community House, and be appointed a trustee.
Travelling around the electorate means she has been through a few cars over the years.
“Very soon I will need a car without my name and face on the side of it, and I’m really looking forward to that. But there’s not a whole lot that I’m longing to have after I leave, or can’t wait for, because I’ve loved the job.”
Losing her ministerial portfolios helped solidify Mrs Goodhew’s decision. She would have otherwise stood for a fifth term.
“But it’s the right time for me to move on. Changing your job at 56 is a lot easier than changing your job at 59.”
So she is job-hunting, and looking for something she can dovoluntarily in South Canterbury, to match her Community House role in Ashburton.