November 6, 2017
Leslie Claire Amminson
The Muse is continuing our interview series with the members of our new city council. This week, we talked to Sheilagh O’Leary about how thrilled she is to see new faces, a more balanced council, and about her priorities for St. John’s.
O’Leary was first elected to council in 2009, and since then has witnessed many changes in St. John’s. This year, she went from being the only woman on council to being one of five.
This fall, there has been a remarkable rise in the number of women on council. What is it like having a more gender-balanced council compared to your previous terms?
It’s absolutely fabulous! As the former Co-Chair of Equal Voice NL and as a feminist, I have been advocating for gender balance in all levels of government, especially in municipal government for years. I was fortunate to have a great mentor in the awe-inspiring Shannie Duff but it has been a lonely place without female peers this past couple of years. Having 5 women elected is not only ‘Herstory’ for the City of St. John’s, but it will help create a badly needed perspective that women can bring to the decision making table.
This will be your first term as Deputy Mayor. What are your primary goals for the city and how do you plan on making improvements?
My primary focus as Deputy Mayor is to help stimulate economic development in the cultural tourism, eco-tourism and food tourism industries. I also want to continue to support vulnerable sectors of our city through local small and mid size business development and affordable housing.
You have served on council with Danny Breen in the past. How do you plan to work together to make St. John’s a better city to live in?
I believe that Mayor Danny Breen and myself make a great leadership team. We have a basic respect and understanding of each other, and an acknowledgement that our unique perspectives create a healthy balance…integral to a good working relationship and ultimately beneficial to our community.
Does the city have plans to make good, affordable living conditions more accessible for students? If so, what are they?
Our fresh, and exciting new council is now comprised of youth which will drive this mandate and ensures fresh and creative ideas get tabled. Affordable housing and transit for students is a major issue for all our council and providing an economic incentive for youth to stay and find opportunities in this city is a focus for me as a creative planner and as a mother of three. Finally, working towards a more pedestrian, biker and accessible transit system helps not just the youth in our community, but all residents.