Strength to Strength: from Olympic champion to Lord Mayor

Judy Ryan interviewed Special Olympian Paul Cleary, Lord Mayor of Portarlington. Here’s his story…

Paul-Cleary-and-willie-Murphy
Paul Cleary has won many medals in the Special Olympics.
He decided to enter the election for Lord Mayor of Portarlington.
After a lot of knocking on doors and getting his message out there, he was voted as Lord Mayor by a landslide.
He takes an active role as Lord Mayor and donated the money he has raised as Lord Mayor to the Special Olympics.

In July 2014, Portarlington Lions Club began a campaign to elect the town’s Lord Mayor. The election was linked to an innovative fundraising event in conjunction with eight separate clubs and groups in the town. Each club had to nominate a representative to run for election and Paul Cleary became the representative for Special Olympics Portarlington.

Paul, a member of Portarlington Special Olympics, is an accomplished athlete, having won a gold medal for swimming in the World Championship and three National gold medals for Bocce. Bocce is an Italian game. The basic principle of the sport is to roll a bocce ball closest to the target ball, which is called a pallina.

Paul explained how his election campaign for Lord Mayor was coordinated with his determined campaign team as they began the task of seeking votes. Each candidate was given fifty cards, to sell lines at €2 per line, with each line sold translating into a vote. Election posters were designed and erected prominently throughout the town. Social media was fully utilised. Paul and his team then began the task of calling to houses and pubs throughout the town over a two-week period. Eventually, they visited every pub in the town seeking votes – wearing out shoe leather and drinking endless cups of tea!

Following the gruelling campaign and a vote count that was overseen by the local Garda Sergeant, Paul was announced as the winner on July 10th in the Orchard Hotel. Paul won the contest by a landslide – 120 votes more than the second-placed candidate.  He received his chain of office and was honoured at a Cathaoirleach’s Reception for Mayor of Portarlington, friends and family in the Council Chambers, Portlaoise – thus beginning his work representing the people of Portarlington.

Paul has become a very visible and active Lord Mayor, representing the town with commitment and vigour. As Mayor Paul, some of his official duties included opening the Lions Club Fun Day; giving a very well received speech at the Local Annual charity Gala Ball held in the Heritage Hotel, Killenard; representing the town at the Ploughing Championships; acting as Grand Marshal at the Lions Club Annual Hunt and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade; and representing the office at the Older Persons Annual Christmas Party.

Paul loves his role as Mayor and his dedication and commitment is evident in the time and care he takes when representing the office. Although nearing the end of his tenure as Lord Mayor, Paul is supporting the club with their nominations for his successor.

Paul donated the money he raised during his term of office to the Special Olympics.

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