Drugs, gangs and protecting Opotiki’s vulnerable people are top priorities for mayoral contender Les Keane.

Mr Keane said if he was elected mayor he wanted to get rid of the drugs that were affecting the town, and the gangs.

“Change the name to not be a gang,” he said “They can still work together but take the sting out of the tail.”

Seventy-two-year-old Mr Keane said another thing he wanted for Opotiki was to put disabled people first.

“We should put their needs first, not just slotted in if we can,” he said. “Look after the vulnerable first and the rest will come.”

Mr Keane was born in Te Puke and with his father being a minister, the family travelled around the country – Nelson, Hastings and Rotorua.

He began his working life in Rotorua at the Forest Research Institute experimenting with “how to grow the best plants”.

Aided by connections made by his father, he then worked in a church store in New Guinea and then a green grocer’s shop in Turangi, which he ended up buying.

“I have moved around a lot, gaining varied experience.”

This experience includes working as a supervisor of 15 women in an Auckland biscuit factory, which he said could get a bit “funny” at times, and a more “normal” job working with fencing and in forestry.

Mr Keane has lived in Opotiki since 1991 and before that lived down the Coast where he met his first wife.

He has three daughters to two women, both of whom he’s now divorced.

“I gained custody of the girls, bringing them up by myself,” he said.

“I learned a lot about psychology and society from the custody processes.’

Mr Keane said being a man who brought up three girls had isolated him from society.

“I felt I was no longer belonging,” he said. “When you’re a male single parent, it’s terrible how society treats you.”

However, after time, he said he was able to work his way back into acceptance.

sven.carlsson@thebeacon.co.nz