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Shannie Duff to get St. John’s highest honour

Shannie Duff’s mayoralty portrait in council chambers at St. John’s City Hall.
Shannie Duff’s mayoralty portrait in council chambers at St. John’s City Hall. - David Maher

Former mayor to receive the Freedom of the City award

Former mayor Shannie Duff will receive the highest award St. John’s can bestow: the Freedom of the City.

St. John’s city council voted unanimously to give the award to Duff, who spent 36 years serving in various levels of government, primarily on the municipal scale.

“I couldn’t think of a more deserving recipient,” said Mayor Danny Breen, who served on council with Duff from 2009 to 2013.

The motion was brought forward by Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary, who participated in the council meeting via telephone while she recovers from surgery.

“She has given her life to public service,” O’Leary said.

Duff was first elected to St. John’s city council in 1977. She became deputy mayor of the city in 1982.

Duff has been heralded as a heroine of heritage properties in St. John’s, particularly in the downtown. She is a founding member of the Newfoundland Historic Trust, the St. John’s Heritage Foundation, St. John’s Clean and Beautiful, the Quidi Vidi-Rennie’s River Development Foundation, Equal Voice NL, the Eastern Regional Health Care Foundation and the Bannerman Park Foundation.

She was also the founding chair of the Newfoundland and Labrador branch of Habitat for Humanity, where she later received a volunteer of the year award for her contributions.

She helped the city develop its first ever city plan in 1980, chairing the steering committee that put it together.

In 1989, Duff became MHA for St. John’s East, but held the title only briefly. By November 1990, she ran for mayor of St. John’s after the retirement of John Murphy, another recipient of the Freedom of the City. Her only time outside of an elected office from 1977 to 2013 was when she lost the next mayoral election to Murphy, who came out of retirement to run. She was back around the council table in 1997 and became deputy mayor once more in 2009 until her retirement from municipal politics in 2013.

In 2003, Duff was named to the Order of Canada for her outstanding community service. She has also received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Memorial University for her public service.

The Freedom of the City has been awarded 15 times in the city’s history. While a number of awards cover large organizations, such as the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Church Lads Brigade, Duff will be the first woman to independently receive the award.

Duff will be recognized at a ceremony to be announced at a later date, which the city has earmarked $10,000 toward.

As a recipient of the Freedom of the City, Duff will be able to address council during its regular meetings, though hold no vote. She will have an open invitation to all events hosted at city hall. She will also get a decorative scroll containing the motion from city council, and a plaque with the city crest noting the award.

david.maher@thetelegram.com

Twitter: DavidMaherNL

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