Sly Castaldi grew up not far from the Italian Canadian Club and has been to countless events there over the years.
Born in Italy, she came to Guelph with her family when she was five years old, attending Sacred Heart school just down the street, then St. James high school before graduating from Bishop Macdonell and later the University of Guelph.
For the past 28 years she has worked with Guelph-Wellington Women In Crisis, the last 14 as its executive director.
But it was a completely unique experience in her old neighbourhood Monday night as Castaldi made her first speech as the Liberal candidate for Guelph in the upcoming provincial election.
Castaldi was officially nominated by local riding association, with around 50 people on hand to hear her acceptance speech.
“I think what I have to do what everybody has to do: work hard, meet people, talk and listen to people and be available,” Castaldi said in a post-speech interview.
“The people need to know you, they need to believe you. You need to inspire them.”
Castaldi believes she has a body of work that has seen her build a solid reputation in the community.
“I’m a pretty authentic person and I’m pretty approachable. I think that people are drawn to individuals that they believe they can put faith in and I believe that’s what I have.
“It’s going to be incredibly hard work and different work for me. Running an organization and running as a candidate is different. It’s a completely different world.”
Castaldi will be stepping away from her job as executive director of Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis at the end of April to campaign full time. She will be using vacation time until the outcome of the election.
“It’s important for me that I leave the organization in good shape and then I can be free to not worry about things,” Castaldi said. “It’s my passion.”
Her work over the years with Women In Crisis as well as a number of other organizations in the area have given her some experience in dealing with the provincial government and understanding the process, she said.
In what she called the first of many speeches she is going to make, Castaldi said she is seizing the moment.
“Despite all of the intensity of making this move, I’m happy to be here. It’s still a little scary, but very happy to be here,” she said in her opening remarks.
“I’m trying to take it all in. I’m trying to not let the fear of the unknown take a hold of me.
“Even though this probably wasn’t on my bucket list, to become a politician, I’ve come to realize that sometimes opportunities present themselves and you have to seize those moments, and that’s what I’m trying to do”
She said she is “ready for the hard work, ready for the tough moments at the door and ready for the tough questions.”
She said she believes in community building and the power of what determined people can accomplish when they work together.
“I believe that we can do better and I believe that we need to be better,” Castaldi said.
Her speech focused largely on her work in the area of social justice and what she said is Premier Kathleen Wynne’s accomplishments in that area.
The local Green Party candidate is Mike Schreiner. The local Conservatives and New Democrats have yet to name a candidate.
The provincial election is in June.