Former mayor a true son of Greytown
By Don Farmer - Wairarapa Times-Age Jan 22, 2014
A man who was at the forefront of Greytown's development when the town turned over a new leaf and began surging ahead in the 1980s has died.
John Garrity, 78, died at Wairarapa Hospital on January 16 and his funeral service was held at St Luke's Church in Greytown yesterday.
A true son of Greytown, being a member of one of the town's long-standing families, Mr Garrity had a business profile and a community service record that earned him the Queen's Service Medal.
He worked in the family's trucking business Garrity Bros for more than 30 years and stepped into public life with his election to Greytown Borough Council in 1980.
After just one term as a councillor Mr Garrity, 48, entered the race for the mayoralty with the departure of incumbent Richard Harding.
He captured 451 votes to defeat rival Juliet Cooke on 321 votes and wore the mantle of Greytown mayor for six years before forced local body amalgamation sounded the death knell for borough councils in Wairarapa.
The merger resulted in the formation of South Wairarapa District Council - combining the old boroughs of Featherston, Martinborough and Greytown and Featherston County Council - and Mr Garrity became the district council's first mayor.
Part of his achievement in that role was successfully guiding his new council through the pitfalls of parochialism and to meld the councillors into becoming a united group with the good of the entire district at heart.
At times that was no easy task as in its early days the council was divided along quasi-political lines resulting in some fierce debating and, at times, disruptive behaviour.
He served two terms as district mayor before retiring from the role.
Mr Garrity had a keen sense of humour which helped him through some tight spots at meetings and had an insightful outlook on his job.
When about to retire from local body politics in 1995 he told reporter Yvonne Craig whenever he "felt a bit down" he referred to a verse by Rudyard Kipling stuck to a clipboard on his desk.
In part the Kipling quote reads "if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you ..."
During the same interview Mr Garrity said a trigger for his decision to retire from politics had been a telephone call to him in the early hours of a Sunday morning.
On the phone was a ratepayer complaining about his neighbour setting off a bird scarer.
The normally congenial Mr Garrity completed his answer by saying: "When you start swearing at the customers, it's time to stop.'
Apart from local body politics Mr Garrity gave long service to the community in other ways, especially as a charter member of Greytown Lions Club, patron of the Greytown Tennis Club, his work with Arbor House, as chairman of the South Wairarapa Workingmen's Club life members trust and as a Justice of the Peace.
Mr Garrity is survived by his wife of 53 years, Isobel, his daughter Sally and son Brett and four grandchildren Joshua, Anthony, Isabella and Pippi.