Shannie Duff, three other members of council say goodbye
Standing ovations, goodbyes and even a few tears were the order of the day for the final meeting of the 2009-13 St. John’s city council Monday.
It was also considered a historic moment in time as Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff wrapped up more than 30 years as a municipal politician.
St. John’s councillor Gerry Colbert wipes a tear from his face as after speaking for the last time at the regular council meeting Monday afternoon. — Photos by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
Duff is one of four councillors who have retired from St. John’s council. A fifth was unsuccessful in her bid for the mayor’s chair in last week’s municipal election.
While the final meeting only lasted 25 minutes, the accolades and best wishes went on for more than an hour.
Duff, who announced her retirement in May after first being elected in the 1970s, received three standing ovations during her last meeting.
“I have a great respect for all the people that I have worked with,” she said to a packed gallery.
“Everything that has happened that is good in this city is as a result of many people, many councillors, citizens, volunteers, city staff and I am proud of our collective legacy. What we have today is a beautiful, vibrant, historical livable city,” Duff said during her goodbye speech.
Turning towards the gallery where some of the newly elected councillors were sitting, she offered a few words of wisdom.
“Please guard it well, because the biggest challenge you are going to have is managing all of the growth and prosperity in a way that you do not lose what is unique and beautiful about our city.
“And I can tell you new guys, if you don’t behave, I’ll be watching you,” she said, laughing.
Duff thanked her family, city staff and the citizens of St. John’s for a successful career in municipal politics.
Couns. Gerry Colbert, Frank Galgay and Debbie Hanlon have all previously announced their retirements from council.
Colbert, the longest serving councillor next to Duff, was the most emotional.
He said 24 years ago, when he was first elected, Duff was the one who swore him in, and he was so nervous he doesn’t think he could even remember his name.
“It’s humbling for people to ask you to come back six more times,” Colbert said. “I’d like to thank the citizens for 24 years, six elections, for giving me the privilege and pleasure to help run the city and give my little piece to help make this a better place for people to live, families to grow and businesses to operate.”
He also sent kudos to the staff not only the administrative teams, but the people who make the city work.
“The people at the depot digging the holes in the storms, snowplowing when you can’t see across Ruby Line,” said Colbert, who began to choke back tears.
“We came as a family and we’re leaving as a family. My wife and sons stood behind me, knocked on doors, shovelled driveways for senior citizens who couldn’t get out in the morning, took phone calls, got me out of bed. They were five and seven, a young family, now 29 a teacher in St. John’s. It has been a great run. I love St. John’s. I love every part of it. Good night,” said Colbert choking back tears.
Galgay, who has served as the Ward 2 councillor for 16 years, also thanked his family for the support over the years .
“It is an honour to have served this city over four terms and I am thankful to the citizens of Ward 2 for the trust and confidence they’ve given me in this chamber,” he said.
Hanlon, who represented the residents of Ward 4 for the past six years, thanked the people for their support and the rest of council, Duff especially, for their guidance over the years.
She said she’s about to embark on a new journey in her life but has learned a lot from her time on council.
Coun. Sheilagh O’Leary, who was elected as a councillor-at-large in 2009, unsuccessfully challenged Mayor Dennis O’Keefe for the mayor’s chair in the municipal election Sept. 24. As a result, she lost her seat on council.
But O’Leary said she isn’t retiring and will be back.
“I’m not going into retirement,” she said.
“I gave it a great fight with a phenomenal team behind me. I’m extremely proud to have served four years for the citizens of the city and as opposed to saying goodbye, I’ll see you very soon,” said O’Leary.
The returning councillors and O’Keefe said the city council during the past four years worked well together and each councillor brought something different to the table that helped make the best decisions for the city.
O’Keefe said it has been a wonderful experience over the years working with Colbert and his energy, Galgay and his eloquence, Hanlon and her fresh perspective and O’Leary’s dedication.
Regarding Duff, he said while he understood her decision to retire, when she informed him months ago, he was still shocked.
“Shannie has been iconic in her devotion to the city. She has brought all talents, skills and energies, not only to the city chamber, but to the provincial and federal levels as well,” O’Keefe said.
“The city we know now has been shaped to a large extent by what Shannie has done and achieved,” he said, wishing her the best in her future endeavours.