By Adrian Browne
Ieuan Wyn Jones has described the last four years as "a remarkable journey" for him as well as his party.
Ieuan Wyn Jones has led Plaid into government for the first time
In 2003 he resigned as Plaid Cymru leader after poor Welsh assembly election results.
Now the party is entering government for the first time, and Mr Jones joins the cabinet as deputy first minister.
Mr Jones has been described by colleagues and opponents alike as a man of integrity, one who is reliable and "a good listener".
It was a time for a little reflection as he held his briefing as leader of the opposition in Cardiff Bay for the final time.
"Four years ago it was a particularly difficult time, and hard to envisage that this might be happening now," he said.
"But it has been a remarkable journey for me personally and something that I have great pride in, in a sense, that I have been able to lead the party through a very difficult period.
"And yet four years on we're in this position and I'm very much looking forward to this challenge.
"This is the challenge that I felt my party needed to take, rather than the challenges of four years ago".
The Plaid leader demonstrated his negotiation skills over the past two months, as he bargained with all three other parties in the assembly chamber to get what he believed to be the best deal.
Those abilities will be further tested as deputy leader of a Labour-Plaid Welsh Assembly Government.
Mr Jones' style is likely to contrast with that of his coalition partner, Rhodri Morgan, the First Minister.
Mr Morgan has a flamboyant man-of-the-people style, he seems to relish speaking to anybody on about just about any subject.
First Minister Rhodri Morgan with Ieuan Wyn Jones
Mr Jones, 58, is somewhat quieter, more understated.
But senior opposition politicians retain much respect for Mr Jones, despite his decision to form a government with Labour rather than them.
Conservative Nick Bourne, who now becomes official leader of the opposition in Cardiff Bay, described him as "somebody who's trustworthy, somebody who's reliable".
Mr Bourne added that he thought Mr Jones was "a safe pair of hands" and "a good leader for his party".
Such praise was thin on the ground four years ago, when Mr Jones resigned as his party's leader after disappointing assembly election results.
Half his then 12-strong assembly group wanted him to go immediately and he did.
Four months later he was re-elected as leader of the Plaid Cymru assembly group, albeit with a narrow majority over rival Helen Mary Jones.
Although the post of leader was split, with the role of president going to Dafydd Iwan, Mr Jones later re-emerged as the overall leader of the party.
Last summer he embarked on a Wales-wide walk.
IEUAN WYN JONES
Born Denbigh 22 May 1949
Married to Eirian, three children
Studied law at Liverpool Polytechnic
MP for Ynys Mon 1987-2001, AM since 1999
Elected Plaid leader 2000
Leisure interests: Sport, travel and history
Mr Jones believes the conversations with people he met on the journey helped create a manifesto better geared to the real needs of people of Wales, rather than simply what politicians thought they needed.
In the 3 May assembly election, Plaid gained three more seats and his position as leader was secure.
Those who know Mr Jones well say his handling of the difficult process of creating a coalition with a rival party is testimony to his ability to organise and delegate effectively.
Senior Plaid AM and Presiding Officer Dafydd Elis-Thomas has known him for more than 30 years.
He says that even when he first met the then law student he was a very good organiser with "huge tenacity".
Lord Elis-Thomas said: "He is very good at listening.
"He still talks to each (Plaid Cymru assembly) group member individually. He does that assiduously".
Lord Elis-Thomas believes Mr Jones will be good at "measuring outcomes are met", in other words, ensuring the administration achieves what it says it will.
Ieuan Wyn Jones with 2007 Plaid election candidates
The Plaid AM says his colleague has understanding of the importance of "process, probity, integrity and propriety".
Away from politics, Mr Jones' brother Rhisiart said religion and travel were an important part in the new deputy first minister's life.
"He's an elder in his local chapel and also preaches on occasions, " he said.
"Ieuan loves to travel and when he left college he organised a right of passage trip across Europe in his Hillman Imp."
Rhisiart also emphasised that his brother was not just a "man from the north".
"Many people think that Ieuan is just a 'gog' but parts of south Wales are very close to his heart," he said.
"The time we spent living in Garnswllt (near Amanford) was a very happy time for us as a family."
The one-time solicitor has been an opposition politician all his political life.
He leads Plaid Cymru into government for the first time in the party's 82 year history.
Having completed one remarkable four year journey, he is now embarking on another.
The next four years are set to be even more challenging for him with the coalition government he has created with Labour.
Whatever happens between now and the 2011 assembly election, Ieuan Wyn Jones is already assured a place in Welsh political history.