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Mayor's family miss his home cooking
By MARY-JO TOHILL
Married to the
Lepper at home
with her dog
When Bernice Lepper's husband
Tony became Central Otago
district's new mayor two years
ago, her biggest fear was that she
would lose her cook.
To a large extent that is exactly
what happened, because home life
has definitely changed, with a
husband more used to heading off
to work in his gumboots now just
as likely to leave the house in a
suit, and not get home until late.
However, he still cooks, regret-
fully not as often, according to the
Lepper's two children Blake, 25,
and Brie, 23.
''I used to be good, but I'd got out
of the habit and the kids tell me
I'm hopeless and they much
prefer Tony,'' Mrs Lepper, known
as ''Bernie'', said.
Re-visiting her cooking skills is
just one of several things she has
had to come to grips being
married to the mayor.
''I'd never saw myself as a
mayoress. It just didn't seem 'me.'
But actually I'm really enjoying it.
It's a privilege.''
As a third generation Clyde-
Earnscleugh-ite, the eldest daugh-
ter of Peter and Wilma Paulin, she
has comes from a family with
strong community ties.
Mrs Lepper is involved with
several high profile groups such
as Alexandra Community House
Trust, which she chairs, and as a
trustee of Central Lakes Trust.
She is also Central Otago REAP
''I find myself going to occasions
wearing numerous hats.''
A marriage celebrant long before
she became a mayoress, she has
always had to have plenty of
''wedding outfits'' in the ward-
robe, mostly bought from Alex-
andra stores, which she also puts
to good use on mayoral outings.
''It's been really good to have an
excuse to have not just one, but
three pairs of shoes!''
What Mrs Lepper has loved most
about being mayoress so far is the
citizenship ceremonies, where
she welcomes new New Zealand-
ers and reads out their testimon-
''I really enjoy meeting them and
hearing their stories.''
The scariest thing has been the
Alexandra Blossom Festival par-
ade, where the mayoral couple is
required to drive down the town's
main street as part of the
''That's been the hardest thing
because it's so public. Walking
with a group would be much
The mayoral team are keen on
multisport, having entered the
Gold Rush as veterans every year.
When Mr Lepper decided to run
for mayor, they delivered his
flyers by bike.
As mayor, naturally he cops a bit
of flak, which he cannot help but
''He mulls it over, and often we try
to think of the issue from a
different angle, stepping back
from the emotion.''
Both from teaching backgrounds,
they met at the Craigieburn Ski
Field in Canterbury. He was a
long-haired, laid-back lad from
the Hawke's Bay with a degree in
history who wanted to travel. She
was short-haired, more studious
with a double degree in history
and geography, who wanted to
focus on a teaching career.
''It took me a while to warm to
him,'' she laughed.
They did not start going out until
the last week of their course. Mrs
Lepper took a teaching job in
Motueka, and he soon followed,
becoming a relief-teacher, part-
time forestry worker and white-
They married, and went overseas
travelling for three years, coming
back to Central to work on the
Paulin family orchard in 1984.
Mrs Lepper eventually went to
teach at Dunstan, with a two-year
stint at Cromwell College. Mr
Lepper became manager of the
Earnscleugh Irrigation Scheme,
and during that time he was a
hands-on father to their young
children, becoming a councillor at
amalgamation time in 1989.
''He was chief cook and bottle-
washer while I worked and he
enjoyed it, picking the kids up
even when he didn't have to.''
But when he decided to run for
mayor two years ago, she was
happy to support him. Still
working fulltime herself, they
cherish their home life together.
''Sometimes I feel like we're never
at home. It's our sanity place.''
They work hard at keeping some
sort of routine. He gets up early
and tends his vege garden, then
they have breakfast together
before heading off to their various
And will the mayoral team be
standing again in the 2013
''Yep, we'll go another round.''
''Sometimes we pinch ourselves
and ask each other 'how did we
''How did I end up married to a
mayor and representing a com-
munity like this?''
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