On his final day as interim administrator with Armidale Regional Council, Viv May spoke to The Express enthusiastically about the delights of country living and the natural beauty of the area.
Armidale Regional Council was suspended by Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock in June after a breakdown of the relationship between councillors.
In early September, Mr May was given a second three-month appointment to administrate the council.
Mr May has spent the last six months in the administrator role, splitting his time between his home in Sydney and his job in Armidale.
"I've gone home every second weekend and flown backwards and forwards because it is very convenient," he said.
"I've been home when I've had to be home and here when I've had to be here.
"I had no idea what a fantastic place Armidale is. It's just got so much to offer, as does the whole region, and what disappoints me, to a degree, with the Armidale region is that they don't sell it.
"It's not everyone, but a lot of people are negative, and it is a great place to live, and they should talk that up."
A lot of that negativity in the community comes down to frustration with local government Mr May thinks.
People have had a gutful of the council
"I think a lot of it is the council - people have had a gutful of the council," he said.
"The people I have talked to, whether in the street or villages, have all been superb."
Mr May was appointed to provide independent governance to address organisational and governance matters and perform the functions of the mayor and councillors while Armidale Council was suspended.
Four of Armidale's 11 elected councillors resigned following the council's suspension, including former mayor Simon Murray.
"The dysfunction had in effect cascaded resulting in processes and procedures of the administration in some areas collapsing," he said.
"Nor did I appreciate the tenuous state of the council's finances and the now proven financial ineptitude of the newly merged council in its early years."
My May said that added to that complexity was the fact that in many areas harmonisation of council services and policies following the 2016 merger were still to be completed.
"Originally I had people come to talk to me in the office," he said.
"Then after the first month, I thought to myself this place is so nice, but I'm not going to see any of it unless I go and talk to people at their place.
"I've been out to properties - and on roads that I wish I'd never got onto.
I've probably covered more ground than Thunderbolt since I've been here.
"Some of my grandkids came up one weekend and a lady out at Guyra, Wendy Mulligan, heard about it and asked if we'd like to come out to their property.
"The kids fed chooks, patted lambs and then we had a little barbecue up in the back paddock, and the grandkids are still talking about it.
"The assets in the area, the gorges and waterfalls are just fantastic, and the drive to Guyra out past the Dumaresq Railway Station it is absolutely beautiful.
"I look forward to the day when people can ride or walk along the rail trail there, and this community can share its assets. That's a great opportunity, and I hope it comes to fruition. It's a no brainer in my view."
While Mr May has enjoyed his time here, he is not sure if he'll be back as a tourist as he says his family have been up a few times and he's probably seen all there is to see.
"I haven't made any friends I'm afraid because I've kept to myself, but I have enjoyed the eight pubs in Armidale and the two pubs in Guyra, and I can recommend all of them - the food is great.
Armidale is a great place and there is no shortage of things to do
One of the highlights for Mr May's wife and daughter when they visited was Granny Fi's Toy Cupboard.
"They thought it was a huge asset for the area," he laughed. "I'm now waiting on a couple of wands to be delivered."
The area is blessed with natural wonders, but the walks out at Gara Gorge are a stand out highlight for Mr May.
"I was out there a couple of days after rain, and you look down at the river cascading over the rocks - it is just fantastic," he said.
Mr May has no plans to take on any more big projects next year and intends to take it easy, but then again this will be the third time he has 'retired' after nearly 50 years in the NSW local government sector.
He was appointed as administrator when Auburn City Council was suspended while a public inquiry was conducted following the Salim Mehajer scandal. Mr May then became the administrator at the newly formed Cumberland Council.
"The new council was made up of bits from three former council areas, and it was an area of 250,000 people where 50 percent of the people weren't born in Australia," Mr May said.
"For me, it was a real eye-opener and spending so much time in the regions has been a real eye opener too, but in a completely different way. Country life is fantastic."
Mr May says none of those administration roles have been easy, but all of them have been very satisfying.
"They've all been challenging, and they've all been different," he said.
"I must say I get a bit disappointed with some of the councillors who personalise things. I've been very careful not to point the finger at any individual, whether it be a staff member or a councillor or a former councillor or a former staff member. I'm just getting used to saying it's not anyone it's everyone who caused this mess."
In his final minute to Armidale Regional Council at its December meeting in Guyra on Wednesday Mr May said he had continued to be contacted by suspended councillors questioning some of his public statements.
"I find it very interesting that the Office of Local Government Minister has identified the very thing I was saying," he said.
I just hope the returning councillors have learnt from their mistakes.
"They've got a second chance, and I just hope they're respectful of the community they represent, of the staff, and themselves because their track record is not fabulous.
"I hope this works."