By CAMERON KILFOY
Special to The Appalachian
STEPHENVILLE – Laura Aylward is the town’s longest serving member of council and in her 28 years she’s achieved much more than she imagined.
“I felt that a lot of things needed to be done in Stephenville. I thought that I could contribute and that’s when I decided to run,” said Aylward.
Her passion for the town and her drive is what helped her reshape Stephenville into the place it is today. Aylward says her journey, which began in 1993, has been exciting.
“The first term is always a learning experience for any council member,” said Aylward. “Learning the ins and outs of different departments and understanding daily operations was something that prepared me for my second term.”
Back then Aylward was the only woman serving on the council, but she didn’t let anything about that first term discourage her. With support from the mayor, she thought it would be best to stay and finish the work they started, so she ran again.
“At that time we were looking at community aesthetics,” said Aylward. “We put in an application for a grant and we got $55,000 and we started with tree planting. From there we started the Beautification Committee and to this day every year we plant trees.”
Aylward learned quickly that she would need to work with the community, and both federal and provincial governments. She felt strongly about the quality of healthcare and wanted to improve anything and everything she could about the system.
“Healthcare seemed to be the concern of so many people and it still is. People knew I would fight to help them on this and we did see improvements,” said Aylward. “We got a new hospital.”
The price tag for the hospital came in at $35 million but Aylward says it was needed in their community. Opening the new hospital is one of her proudest moments as a council member.
“It took fifteen years to get the new hospital. It was long overdue,” said Aylward. “I worked at the old hospital for 33 years before joining the council. It was a full-circle moment for me. The feeling was rewarding.”
Aylward also played a major role in helping the town get a new water system. Among her other achievements of note are the opening of a park out of the devastation of the 2005 flood and developing walking trails throughout the town as part of the beautification initiative.
Improving the town of Stephenville remains Aylward’s ultimate goal and with the municipal election coming up on September 28, she says that she still has many more ideas in store to help develop the community.