Sheilagh O'Leary 'absolutely elated' about Ward 4 win
The newest St. John's city councillor says she's delighted to have won Ward 4 with more than 50 per cent of the vote.
"I'm just feeling absolutely elated," says Sheilagh O'Leary, who previously sat as a councillor at large and who was defeated in the mayoralty race in 2013 against Dennis O'Keefe.
O'Leary took home 53.29 per cent of the vote, beating out fellow former city councillor Debbie Hanlon, as well as contenders Jill Bruce, Janet Kovich and Matthew White.
The byelection win puts O'Leary back in the council chambers — and makes her the only woman to serve on the current council.
The estrogen level has certainly just shot up the pipe and such, which is great.- Sheilagh O'Leary
"Obviously I was cut off at the knees. When I ran for mayor it was a big leap of faith," said O'Leary.
"I had great difficulties with the leadership at the city and that's why I felt like I needed to step up and some people felt, maybe she's jumping too high too fast, but you know what, when you know that you can make a difference and that you can make that change happen, you have to follow your heart."
'Meant to be in that chamber'
O'Leary also ran provincially in a 2014 byelection for the NDP in the former district of Virginia Waters, but lost to Liberal Cathy Bennett.
"People have lots of issues and I'm just — I'm honoured, I'm humbled and I'm so excited about getting back because you know what? I am meant to be in that chamber," said O'Leary.
Despite the turbulent times at city hall with backlash from the last budget, O'Leary said she's excited to return to municipal politics.
"It's no secret to any of you that I am somebody who does not mind speaking the truth in the chamber and speaking up. It's tough to be there sometimes, the voice and such that brings up the hard questions," she said.
"It can be unnerving, but I really feel a strong sense of responsibility to bring those issues forward. I am truly interested in public service and serving the people, I'm not interested in serving the council," she said.
"I'm interested in partnering with the council, but I am there to serve the people."
'Somebody has to expose issues'
O'Leary's victory also means an end to the first all-male St. John's council since 1969.
When you know that you can make a difference and that you can make that change happen, you have to follow your heart.- Sheilagh O'Leary
"The estrogen level has certainly just shot up the pipe and such, which is great," said O'Leary.
"Having no women in city council to me is a shame because we have 50 per cent of the population, men and women have different perspectives. I'm not saying no more, no less, but we have different perspectives and we deserve to have more gender equity."
As for any plans to run for mayor again, O'Leary said she has "no idea" what the future holds at this point.
"Honestly, at this stage in the game I am just so delighted to be back on city council, to have a voice," she said.
"I think the public has come forward and supported me because they know it's difficult to get out there and work against the flow, but somebody has to do that. Somebody has to expose issues and such that oftentimes are falling to the wayside."