Heidi O’Sheehan: Respect in Current Events

In 2008, Heidi O’Sheehan made her first run for public office in a crowded field of five candidates for Hollywood’s District 3. To the casual voter, this wife and mother of three may have seemed like a typical soccer mom who decided to try her luck at Current Events. But they would’ve underestimated her. She scored an impressive victory. <!–break–> Heidi has more than 20 years of decorated service in the United States Army and Army National Guard and is a graduate of Ohio University. She served as the officer in charge of the South Area Command Emergency Operations Center, providing airport and seaport security after the Sept. 11 attacks. She also served as company commander of the Governor’s Outstanding Unit during a one -year deployment to the Middle East in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Heidi retired from the Army in 2005 and now serves the people of Hollywood, Fla.

Q: Where did you grow up, and what was it like? We moved several times when I was growing up. I lived in different parts of New York and Ohio. I had a great childhood. We had our problems as every family does, but I have very fond and happy memories of my childhood. I appreciate it much more now that I am a parent myself; now I know how hard it was for my parents and how much I really took for granted.

Q: Do you have a favorite sport or hobby? I love to travel, near or far. I love seeing new places, meeting new people and experiencing our wonderful world and all it has to offer. I also love to read and go to movies and plays.

Q: Who has most shaped you as a leader – your mother or your father? Why? Both of my parents shaped me in very significant, yet, different ways. My father’s family immigrated to this country in the1940s. He instilled in me a tremendous patriotism and appreciation for our country and the many rights and privileges we enjoy here. … My mother is one of the kindest, most giving people I have ever met. She taught me the importance of being a good person, caring for others and giving back to your community.

Q: Where and how did you meet your spouse? We met … in Denver, Colo., at Lowry Air Force Base. He was a Marine, and I had just completed basic training. We were together there for 10 months before he was sent to Japan, and I was sent to Germany. We had a one-year, long distance relationship, I visited him in Japan, and we married at the end of that year in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Q: Does your family have a Thanksgiving or Christmas tradition that you’d like to tell us about? Every Thanksgiving we make homemade pumpkin bread … and we deliver them to our neighbors, friends and family to let them know how thankful we are for them.

Public leadership Q: What was your motivation to run for public office? I had been very active through my civic association for over 10 years and felt it was time to move from activist to decision maker. I felt I had gained a lot of very valuable leadership experience during my military career and that those skills would translate well to public office.

Q: Can you name a key issue that you are currently working on as commissioner that you hope to see completed at some time? … One initiative I worked on was for the city to set aside a small amount of money to create a grant program for our schools so that if a teacher or school had a really wonderful project that would directly enrich their students, but there was just no way to fund it, we could help fill that gap. At our next Commission meeting, we will be awarding the first of these grants.

Q: Can you name a time where your faith was challenged as a public official? I feel as though my faith is constantly challenged. … I have had to make many decisions both in the military and in my first year in public office where I felt a great deal of pressure – overt and covert – to “go with the flow.” We have a moment of silence before every meeting, I always say a prayer for God to grant me an open mind and heart, for the wisdom to make the right decisions and for the strength to stand my ground whether or not my decision is the “popular” or majority opinion.

Public perspective Q: Everyone develops an opinion about presidential and gubernatorial elections, but few people focus on local elections. What are your thoughts about this? I would really encourage people to become more involved in their local elections. … [Local politicians] are the most accessible … and the ones making decisions that absolutely affect your pocketbook and your immediate quality of life.

Q: Is there a person in American history that you truly admire or are fascinated by? I am fascinated by anyone who achieves remarkable success in whatever his or her chosen field of endeavor is – [whether it is] sports, business or medicine. People like Bill Gates, Tiger Woods and Rick Warren.

Fill-in-the-blanks The one thing that I would change about the City of Hollywood…. I wish every resident and business person knew who their commissioner was and had had at least one conversation with them. Really, call me. I’ll talk to you!

The one thing that I would change about the USA… I wish the word “politician” could once again engender respect, because that respect was earned and deserved by those honored enough to hold public office.

Quick questions First job? Scooping ice cream at a local amusement park in Ohio. I had to dress up like a German farm girl. Last book read? I read a lot of what my kids are reading; I like to be able to talk with them about the books. I’m reading “Listen!” by Stephanie Tolan with my son Isaac. On my own, I’ve been reading a collection of Great American short stories.  Musical preference? Contemporary Christian, country, classic rock and alternative. It depends on my mood. Favorite team? Buffalo Bills. My husband grew up there and turned me into a fan. UM for a college team. Salty or sweet? Both. Lakes or oceans; mountains or beaches? Lakes and mountains. Army, navy, air force, marines or coast guard? Army all the way!


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