© Andrew Wagstaff - The Citizen-Record
Wharton resident Oralee O'Byrne is one of several candidates in the running for the District 10 seat on Cumberland County council, vacated by the death of longtime councillor Ratchford Merriam last November. The byelection will take place on Feb. 16.
WHARTON – While much of her job has focused on the past, it’s the future that Oralee O’Byrne has in mind as she offers her candidacy for municipal politics.
The curator/manager of the Age of Sail Heritage Centre shipbuilding museum in Wards Brook is one of several candidates vying for the District 10 seat on Cumberland County council in a byelection to be held on Feb. 16.
“I’m very passionate about the area to begin with, and I always have been,” said O’Byrne. “I think it’s time we have someone with maybe a different perspective. I think all the candidates running have their strengths, but I think I bring a lot of my own strengths to it.”
Her work with the museum, along with her efforts as a volunteer working with the restorative justice, have given the candidate a unique experience in bridging the gap between older and younger generations, she explained.
She also pointed to her work in the tourism industry, both through the museum and the Cumberland County Heritage Network for the past eight years, that have allowed her to see the challenges of both living and working in the area.
“I have the energy and the drive to do the job,” she said. “I had a lot of experience dealing with other functions of government, because of the museum and I was also co-chair of a task force for the justice minister when Murray Scott was there. So I had experience dealing with government people, which can in itself be exhausting at times, but I have that experience to draw on and take with me.”
Raised in Wards Brook, the Parrsboro Regional High School graduate went on to study and work in Alberta in the security and hospitality industries, later moving back to Nova Scotia to work in customer service in Dartmouth, and as a co-operator of The Deli in Parrsboro before taking on her current role at the museum in 2004.
She said she was encouraged and considered running for council first in 2008, but decided against it because of her father’s failing health. She again took a look at it in 2012, but her respect for former councillor Ratchford Merriam held her back.
“Like everyone, I thought he was doing a pretty good job, and I didn’t want to run against him,” said O’Byrne.
Merriam passed away in November, after being re-elected by acclamation in the Oct. 20 election.
With her two sons now grown up, O’Byrne said she felt the timing was right this time around. While she does not plan to leave the museum, she said she has spoken with the board of directors and received their assurances that she would be given necessary time off to deal with her duties as councillor, if elected.
“I’m ready for a change in my life, and I think this would be a challenging and exciting one,” she said. “I’m ready for the job, and I think I can do a good job.”