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Roddickton-Bide Arm Mayor Sheila Fitzgerald wants to make a difference

Sheila Fitzgerald wears many hats, including mayor, manager of a government department and holds a seat on MNL. She continues to add more to her plate.
Sheila Fitzgerald wears many hats, including mayor, manager of a government department and holds a seat on MNL. She continues to add more to her plate.

RODDICKTON-BIDE ARM — Sheila Fitzgerald has a busy life.

She’s a single mother of two boys, mayor of Roddickton-Bide Arm and a social worker and manager of the Children’s Seniors’ and Social Development department in the community.

She’s about to get even busier, with her appointment to the National Green Municipal Fund Council, a national organization that helps create green initiatives across Canada.

She was chosen out of numerous applicants from Atlantic Canada to represent all of the rural municipalities across the country.

Although she admits her knowledge about green initiatives is limited, and many of the applicants may have had more education in those areas, she was still the front runner and accepted the position officially earlier this month.

During the interview process, she was asked why she wanted to be a part of the group.

For her, the answer was easy.

“I said, ‘I’m not a scientist. I’m not an engineer. I’m not an environmentalist. I’m a social worker. All I want to do is just make a difference. I want to be able to improve lives, quality of life for my town, for my province, and other small towns that are struggling like we are. That’s all I want to do. I want to walk away and say that I did my best, I gave it 100 per cent and that I made a difference,’” she said.

For Fitzgerald, making a difference has always been her motivation.

Becoming a social worker was because she had empathy and strong will to help others. Moving into the manager’s role, she became a household name for those who dealt with the department.

As her sons got older, she began to get an itch for community involvement. Three and a half years ago, she ran for mayor of Roddickton-Bide Arm, and won.

Not long after, she ran for a seat on Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) in the role of small towns director, representing all the rural communities of the province. She garnered a majority vote to earn her seat, and was surprised she was able to gain so much support.

Her decision to run for mayor, she said, was from her need to keep busy.

Joining MNL was under the same circumstances. She wanted to continue to grow and learn, and what better way than join a provincial board.

This new position will be added to her current duties.

All of it is volunteer; none of the positions earn Fitzgerald any pay.

“This is not a paid position, just like being on MNL is not a paid position and just like being mayor is not a paid position,” she said. “But it was an opportunity to learn more, to grow more, to meet new people, network, and this green municipal fund, the purpose behind it is encouraging communities to go green.”

Although she admits to not having a lot of knowledge in the area, there is one thing that stood out to Fitzgerald that she enforced strongly in her interview. That is the lack of funding for green initiatives in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In fact, out of over $30 million invested in 20 projects last year, not a cent came to this province.

“Is it because we don’t know, or we’re not tapping into ideas, or we’re not marketing ourselves or we’re not marketing with the right people?” she said. “So I looked at that and said this was a chance not only for me to promote my town or my region, but also our province. That was a big driver for me.”

In this new role she will attend functions in Ottawa several times a year and take part in conference calls with other members of the council.

She is one of five municipal leaders, five private sector representatives and five federal specialists on the board.

“There’s so much for me to learn,” she said. “I’m a social worker. I worry about how people feel, I worry about my community.

“But we don’t know what green opportunities are out there, and what can we do to improve the way we do things here. I have that desire to be challenged, to be surrounded by people that know more than I do. So this gives me that chance.”

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