With changes in the wind and after a decade of financial losses for the Newcastle Harness Racing Club, chairman Jim Bell was ready to call it quits last year following more than 40 seasons of service.
Bell, though, was urged to stay on for one more year.
On Tuesday night, the 78-year-old will go out on a high when he hands over the reins to Daryl Rodgers at the NHRC annual general meeting.
After a raft of cost-saving measures, as well as major changes to Harness Racing NSW's coverage of raceday expenses, the club is expected a post close to a break-even result for 2018-19.
It is a huge turnaround for NHRC, which lost more than $540,000 across the previous two years. In the eight before that, the club had a deficit above $90,000 each year after the loss of key race dates and changes to funding models.
NHRC secretary-manager Wayne Smith said Bell, who has been chairperson the past 20 years, deserved to retire on a positive note.
Bell came onto the NHRC board in the mid-1970s and was president when the Newcastle Paceway at Broadmeadow opened in 1989. For all but a couple of years since, Bell has served on the committee.
"Those people just don't seem to be around anymore, those people who put in 10, 20, 30 years of commitment," Smith said. "People seem to fly in and fly out now ... Jim has stuck through.
"He's been a steady hand through some ups and down. The last 10 years has definitely been a changing environment and the world of racing has changed completely.
"We're so happy that Jim chose to stay on for 12 more months. To have a turnaround in the result and be here to mark 30 years at the paceway, to be there for his [HRNSW] industry recognition award, it's been very positive."
Bell retires as the industry awaits word of a potential new headquarters for Hunter pacing.
The site of the Newcastle track is earmarked for other uses in the proposed Broadmeadow sports and entertainment precinct and the state government is expected to compensate harness racing with a new track and training facility, potentially in the Lower Hunter.
"If the proposed changes come, then I'd only be in the way," Bell said. "It's sad [to retire] but you acknowledge that there's changes coming and you need new thoughts."
He felt "very lucky" to have been part of many club highlights, including Newcastle getting a first-class facility in 1989, a huge crowd at opening night of the paceway, the hosting of Inter Dominion heats and working alongside the late Ross Gigg and current boss Smith.
Bell said he served for so long "because I've always been working with friends and I admire the people in the industry".
"To see at the conclusion that we're getting heats of the Inter Dominion again next year, and the Newcastle Mile is a qualifier for the $1 million Miracle Mile, it's a great note to go out on," he said.
"I will still be going to the races because all my friends are harness racing people.
"I just won't wear a tie and a coat now."
"The first meeting was fantastic, it was like a football crowd, there were so many there.
"Then the heats of the Inter Dominion were fantastic and the Newcastle Mile has always been a highlight.
"And the fact Newcastle got a facility that was first-class, the sort of facility Newcastle was entitled to.
"I was lucky as president that I was working with Ross Gigg, because he was a very good manager, and I feel privileged to have been there when Wayne became manager because he's done a great job for harness racing in the Hunter.
"It's been a pleasure to be in it."
Smith said of Bell: "Jim would call in once or twice a week when Ross was in charge, always checking in.
"You always knew Jim was the chairman, but there was never that overriding rule with an iron first, where things had to be done his way.
"The staff were allowed to do their job at all levels."