Sheilagh O’Leary


Planning to run for office in the upcoming municipal by-election.

…What possessed you?
I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of years to be honest. Social activism has always been my main thing, even before I got into photography. I was one of the core organizers of Peace-A-Chord years ago. I’ve been involved on many different levels. I’ve been a Y volunteer forever and I’ve been on the board of ACAP (Atlantic Coastal Action Program) and the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre. I do a lot of community board work and volunteerism, and I’m passionate about this city. I just figure what better way to influence decisions and make things happen than to go directly to the source where they make decisions for the city?

It’s a leap of faith. Why would somebody like myself, who’s been working in the arts realm take that leap? Well, who else is going to? Who’s going to take the chance and try to effect some changes at city hall? We’ve seen the same faces for the past several years, and it’s time for somebody younger, a woman—let’s get some gender equality going at the city—and let’s get somebody with some fresh ideas in there. I have no big political agenda. I’m not interested in working my way up to mayor or being the premier of the province. I just want to get on council so I can represent people who want some change.

You mention your activist work, but do you think your experience as an artist specifically would help you with a position on City Council?
Absolutely, and a lot of the board work and community work I have done has been in the cultural realm.

I am a creative person, and I am also a self employed small businesswoman. I’m a mother of three children and I’ve been supporting myself by doing photography for seventeen years. I’ve managed to support myself up to this point in time by doing work within the arts. So the art and the business side of life has always been married for me. I’m not just out taking pretty pictures. I do photography as an art form, but I also do it to survive and feed my family.

What’s one idea you have that you haven’t heard from any of the other councillors?
I don’t know if I’ve heard it from the other councillors or not, but the number one issue for me is the recycling/composting issue. Cleaning up and being responsible for our community. We need to lessen how much we’re putting into the landfill, we need to have a heavily enforced composting and recycling program. We can look to a lot of other cities and such, like Halifax, which have it down pat at this point in time. We’re way, way, way behind. It’s not just a city issue, it’s a marriage between the city and the province there will have to be a lot of negotiations there. But you need somebody who’s going to be on it. Someone who’s going to be pushing the issue, not leaving it to the back burner. If it means that I have to be that person that’s harping on a handful of issues as opposed to everything, then that’s fine.

What’s next?

It’s “hurry up and wait.” The by-election is so close. I’m just waiting to see if any of the councilors resign so a position opens that I‘m able to go for. If so, I have a campaign team that’s coming together and they’re going to help me, and we’re just going to fly into it. The big thing is fundraising, because it does cost a fair bit of money to put off a campaign. There will be a lot of hitting the streets and asking for donations and that kind of stuff. That’s it. I’m totally focussed on this by-election for the next little while.

Creatively, I have a film project I’m doing, a photography documentary on a really interesting person who’s on the Northern Peninsula, so that’s in development. And also Jerry Evans and I have a show we’ve pitched to The Rooms dealing with issues of native ancestry and self-identity. There’s lots of creative stuff going. That’s never an issue. Lots of ideas there. But now I’m going to see if I can marry the two. (laugh) See what happens. I don’t know – I’ve never done it before. But you never know if you don’t try.


  1. The Scope · March 29, 2013

    We just received this from Sheilagh:

    Hello all!

    I wanted to write a quick note to all of you supportive people to let you know that there will NOT be a Councillor at Large seat nor a Ward 2 seat opening up for this by-election in St. John’s.

    This is a minor set-back, as our team was poised and ready to go. At present, the only seat available for the by-election will be in Ward 4.

    Our fantastic campaign team is ready to continue preparing for my campaign as I am strongly committed to running for Council in the St. John’s City election in September 2009 !!

    I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support which is enabling me to pursue this vision.

    We desperately need a positive change at City Hall and I am determined to be a part of that transformation.

    I hope I can continue to rely upon your support by continuing this Facebook Group and to contact you throughout the year leading up to the election.

    We can do this, so please stay tuned….