Bob Byrnes, president of the Bay St. George Chamber of Commerce, said he doesn’t know why Joan Shea is leaving at this time, with just one year to go until a provincial election.
Shea, the long-serving MHA and minister for a number of departments during her career, announced her resignation in St. John’s on Monday.
Byrnes realizes politics takes a toll on people’s lives and he speculated there may be some personal reason for the departure. He’s hoping there will be some good candidates step forward because, “this district needs some good representation.”
He said he’s worked with Shea on various issues over the past 15 years, even prior to her getting into politics. Shea worked in corrections and Byrnes served on the board of admissions for Westbridge House in Stephenville, a facility to help people re-integrate into society following time in jail.
Byrnes said he actually gave Shea some advice when she first decided to run for the district.
He said the two of them have had their disagreements over the years, but it was never personal for him. Byrnes has had run-ins with Shea on such things as the re-routing of Route 460 (Hansen Highway) and said there are lots of other roads in the district that could’ve taken priority.
“All I ever wanted was the best for the people of this province,” he said. “I give 110 per cent and expect nothing less from the person who is representing the district.”
Byrnes said, despite his disagreements with Shea, he wishes her well in her retirement from politics.
Stephenville Mayor Tom O’Brien said he wasn’t surprised to hear of Shea’s resignation Monday morning.
“You’re never surprised in politics and I wish her nothing but the best in her next undertaking, whatever that might be,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien said Shea put a lot of work into the district throughout her career.
Wayne Lee, a local member of the Progressive Conservative Association executive, also said he’s sorry to see Shea go.
Lee said she put work into the district that many people don’t even realize, including having bridges fixed and roads started.
“She will be sorely missed,” Lee said.
He said Shea has not only made it easier for women to get into politics, but has also demonstrated that women can take positions of great importance.