Longtime Ameliasburgh councillor Dianne O’Brien is the second candidate to step forward to run for mayor in October’s municipal election.
O’Brien, who has sat as a representative of Ameliasburgh for the last 12 years, filed her nomination papers on June 25. It was back in March that O’Brien was chosen by fellow councillors to fill in for Mayor Robert Quaiff during his provincial bid. At that time O’Brien indicated she had no interest in seeking the position full time.
That all changed when she was encouraged to put her name forward for the position by members of the community.
“I said it and I meant it, but I got a lot of support from residents just asking ‘why don’t you?’” she said. “It’s with the encouragement from the residents and I really do love to serve the residents of Prince Edward County. I found that I liked it, there’s a lot to learn, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
O’Brien spent 31 years working at Nortel and served for years as the chairperson of CAW Local 1839.
“I did the closure package and pension wind up and negotiation with the company and union for many years,” she said.
Following that, she ventured into municipal politics, running successfully in her home ward of Ameliasburgh in 2006. Re-elected in 2010 and 2014, and with her time spent as acting mayor, O’Brien feels she has the skills and experience necessary to take on the role.
“I’m a certified facilitator, so that’s a good skill to have,” she said. “What I’d like to is bring a positive, more open dialogue between council and staff — not that it’s not now, I don’t mean to be critical of anything — but we could do better that way.”
If council were to have more knowledge about meeting agendas, planning issues, and other ongoing municipal work, O’Brien feels it would ultimately lead to better, more expedient decisions.
“If we had council more involved with things like creating the agendas, working with staff more — as mayor you do that, you’re more engaged in that — I would really like to see councillors more engaged in that as well,” she said.
That’s not to say she’d like councillors more involved in the day-to-day business of the municipality.
“I don’t think they should be managing it, but their voice should be heard because that’s the voice of the taxpayer as it relates to policy,” O’Brien said. “I don’t think council should be micromanaging, I see that as a waste of staff time — everybody’s time really.”
The biggest issue facing the County today? For O’Brien, it’s making sure the municipality is affordable for current residents.
“We need to maintain that affordability for the residents, that’s a huge issue,” she said.
Affordable housing is something council needs to take a hard look in terms of what else can be done to support the construction of affordable units, she said.
Additionally, she’d like to bring more jobs into the county and increase the local workforce. O’Brien believes that begins with small businesses in each Prince Edward County community and making sure the municipality has a close relationship with them.
“I would really be encouraging the owners and see what can we do? How can we help? ‘We really like this service you provide, how could we maintain it?’” she said.
If elected, O’Brien said one of her first priorities would be to build a solid bond between council.
“Just a strong, united bond and watch it grow from that,” she said. “That would be important.”
She’d also take a fresh look at the municipality’s tendering policies.
“I think there’s more we could do there,” she said.
O’Brien said she’ll bring diligence and dedication to the role.
“Ill be a very, very hard worker for the residents of Prince Edward County,” she said.
So far just O’Brien and South Marysburgh councillor Steve Ferguson have filed to run for mayor in the Oct. 22 municipal election. The deadline for nominations is Friday, July 27 at 2 p.m.