The Alumni Leader of the Year Award recognises the positive impact and contribution a leader and their leadership has had on their own organisation and community, exemplifying the mission and values of CELF.

Being recognised by their alumni this year was  Andy Mannering -  Kaianga Ora,  Brett Maber – Power Farming,  Darren Ward Swim Waikato, Dr Jeremy Mayall – Creative Waikato and Mike Rolton – St Vincent de Paul’s.

Susan Trodden, Co-Chair – CELF said when considering The Alumni Leader of the Year 2023, we look at  the  kind of impact theses leaders and their  leadership  has been had on the community and how they have drawn on the  connections between their  CELF experience and their leadership practice.

2023 Finalists

Alumni Leader of the Year 2023 Finalists

Andy Mannering (right)

Community Engagement and Partnerships Manager at Kainga Ora - Homes and Communities

Andy's LinkedIn Profile

.  Prior to Andy joining Kainga Ora, Andy’s was at  Hamilton City Council (HCC) where he was the core conduit for community connection, ability to navigate systems to best support the community, and an open mind and open ear to the possibilities and potentials that exist. This has continued into his mahi with Kainga Ora navigating the connections and links between providers and community with a vision for doing things in a different way to better support the community and the future.

Andy worked in the community space with the Hamilton City Council when he was on the CELF Programme and is now with Kaianga Ora. 

Brett Maber

Executive Director - Power Farming
Brett's LinkedIn Profile

Brett was a finalist for the Alumni Leader of the Year Award in 2022.  Susan recalled how Brett was late to a conversation because he had been out on the field, pulling down goal posts after a kid’s rugby practice.

Since completing CELF Brett identified a  significant gap that was left by the discontinuation of the Gwynne Shield, a major component of school rugby in the region.  His solution was to create a replacement competition that is fit for purpose. The Gwynne Shield is one of the most reputable trophies in Waikato Rugby and it a testimony to Brett that Waikato have gifted it to him to have the Power Farming teams now play for Gwynne Shield.

Over the past two year, over 1000 kids are playing rugby thanks to Brett. Through sport and in this case, rugby, there is so much gained by those who participate, far beyond that of the actual game.

In addition to an amazing competition that has grown the strength of the fabric of our community, Brett has also pursued excellent in furthering his own growth by Studying at Harvard University this year.

Darren Ward (left)

CEO - Swimming Waikato

Darren's LinkedIn Profile

Darren  has taken an organisation with a focus on competitive swimming and finding Olympians to a community focussed organisation, dedicating time to water safety.

Darren believes you can save people’s lives and  win gold medals. Ward said “ I hope I am seen as a servant leader and that my work has a long-lasting community  impact.  I love what I do and its incredibly rewarding knowing my work alongside my team and partners is having such a positive impact on the wellbeing and safety of young people living in the Waikato.  CELF is the gift that keeps on giving!”

Dr Jeremy Mayall

CEO - Creative Waikato

Jeremy's LinkedIn Profile

Jeremy is a renowned and accomplished musician, composer, and collaborator.  In recent times Jeremy has been spearheading a project that seeks to help artists to  turn their art into a viable business, and another that takes the arts into businesses, where a creative experience which is good for well-being is taken into a business environment as a team and wellbeing exercise.  Already 150 businesses have shown  interest.

Said of Jeremy by an anonymous contributor “As a sideline observer the work that Jeremy has done and continues to do with the Waikato community to amplify all aspects of art culture is aspirational. Jeremy is an amazing advocate for all arts.”


Mike Rolton

St Vincent De Pauls Hamilton
Mike's LinkedIn Profile

Mike is a well-known and respected leader in the Social Services and the Waikato Community.  He is a  subject matter expert in the Poverty and Homelessness sector and is widely sought for his expertise by Local and Central Government and on Social Sector forums, boards, and advisory groups.  Mike embraces innovative ways to impact the lives of the most vulnerable and at risk of our community members and offers support in a holistic and responsive way that links support from the corporate sector to fund services that are agile to community need.  Mike also uses his expertise in advisory and governance roles in the social sector.

Said of Mike “Mike is a humble, compassionate, insightful, and innovative individual who is respected by his team for the passion that he brings to all his projects and empathy he shows to all individuals.  He also brings his experience in project management and business acumen to every project his leads.”

Alumni Leader of the Year 2022

Kylie Leonard is CELF's Alumni Leader of the Year 2022.  She was sponsored onto the CELF Elevate Leadership Programme by Tompkins Wake, as NZ Dairy Woman Network Community Leader of the Year in 2018. Since graduating from The Elevate Leadership Programme in 2019, Kylie has been on a leadership trajectory.

Kylie is a dedicated Mum, wife, and community leader. She is an experienced director, rural professional, a farmer, governance specialist leader and mentor. She is a member/chair of multiple boards in the community, providing guidance and leadership. She was a finalist in this year’s Women on Boards, retained her seat as Taupo district a counsellor and just announced a recipient of a Nuffield Scholarship.

Kylie Leonard

Kylie Leonard

Kylie says ”if I want to see change it is up to me to be part of making that change happen!”

Alumni Leader of the Year 2020

Rachel Karalus

Our inaugral recipent of the Alumni Leader of the Year Award Leaupepe Rachel Karalus - CEO K’aute Pasifika  was was recognised for her leadership on Friday 20 November 2020 graduation.

Watch her acceptance speech here.

Pictured: Rachel Karalus, CEO - K’aute Pasifika (left), Tania Witheford, CELF - Executive Director (right)


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