Whangarei mayor Morris Cutforth has confirmed he will not seek re-election in October.
The popular former auctioneer and celebrant was elected to the mayoralty with a large majority in 2010, promising more democracy and transparency in council affairs.
However, his mayoralty has been dogged with concerns about his health, council debt levels and community unease over major projects including the Hundertwasser art gallery and a second harbour bridge.
Mr Cutforth suffered a stroke three months after his election, took four months' sick leave and worked reduced hours for some time afterwards.
He told a council meeting on Wednesday that it saddened him to give up a job he loved, but health was now the priority for him and his wife.
Mr Cutforth said before he became mayor, his opinion of the council was coloured by others - but he soon came to realise it was made up of hard-working people who wanted to do the best for their community.
The mayor says the silver lining to his stroke was that he was forced to trust those people and their capabilities, and he was glad he did.
He said sometimes the best thing a leader could do was to get out of the way, let others do their jobs and forge ahead on projects dear to their hearts.