Saturday, September 05, 2020

When New Zealander Danette Connolly first walked on Waterford soil in 1998, she didn’t know if her visit would extend for six months or a year. Over 20 years later, she has just become President of Waterford Chamber. Married to Michael with whom she has one daughter, Helen (17), Danette is the National Clinical Lead and MD of the Home Instead Training Academy and Chairperson of Waterford Hospice.

As a business owner, Danette has been involved with Waterford Chamber at board level for almost a decade is now looking forward to bringing her own ideas to the Chamber as we face into the ‘new normal’ over the coming months.

A life in a day

At present like many I am working from home (previously I would have worked in Dublin on Mondays and Tuesdays and then the rest of the week at home).

I’m lucky to have an office set up in the house and usually try to be in the office in time to catch the 8am news on the radio armed with the first coffee of the day (there could be a few to follow).  I spend half an hour catching up on emails and planning the day. I then pop out to the kitchen to have breakfast with Michael.

These days a typical day is a day in the office with a mixture of calls on the mobile, video meetings over Zoom or MS Teams, collaborating with my Home Instead Senior Care colleagues around the country (lots of questions come my way in relation to Covid and to care of clients). I’m constantly reviewing all updates and assessing the implications on our industry.

I’ve always got several projects on the go so there is always something to get to. I really enjoy my work and every day is different, so the days fly by.

My day has to also incorporate when necessary the voluntary work I do as Chairperson of the Hospice and my Waterford Chamber responsibilities.

I try and be disciplined and keep to usual breaks (otherwise working at home you would have a trail worn to the kitchen/coffee machine!)

My workday finishes between 5:30 and 6pm. And then it’s time to ‘close’ the office and move to the family part of the home. We always try and have dinner together around either the dining room table or in our garden room the favourite evening is one with barbecued food. It’s the time we catch up.   Evenings are when I try to get out for fresh air even if it’s only out in the garden.

At some point in the evening I go on the phone to make the connections to New Zealand and catch up on social media. Then it’s lights out at 11pm (Danette needs her sleep or look out!)

What brought you to Waterford?

A Kilkenny man! I met Michael in Sydney and we married there back in 1995. In 1998 we came to Ireland and we are still here. I’d describe myself as being in Waterford though technically I live in Kilkenny and we would have been a house hold of Kilkenny and All Black supporters. When a child comes along and starts playing in the local Camogie club which is in Waterford you see the boundaries come down and it all comes about embracing sport as a fabulous way for the community to come together.

What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

Always give your best and enjoy doing it.

How do you relax?

Given the mood it could be some quiet time by myself or with the family, watching Netflix (and more often than not it could involve a nice glass of NZ Sauvignon Blanc or the good old G&T and then I support one of our local Gin makers).  Holidays to sunshine would have always been the time out for us a couple of times a year.

What is your favourite film and piece of music?

My favourite all-time film would have to be ‘As Good As It Gets’. Because of the obvious link to New Zealand and a memory from travelling around New Zealand with Michael my favourite song would have to be Four Seasons in One day by crowded house and it can be very apt here at times!

When was the last time you cried?

That tragedy in Donegal. I must admit seeing and hearing what that poor mother experiencing such trauma, grief and sadness.  I’m even choked up now thinking about it.

 What has been your happiest moment of recent times?

This one is easy: surprising my family a couple of days before last Christmas. They had no idea were coming and we spend two weeks in New Zealand. This was Helen’s first New Zealand Christmas.  We have done a lot of trips to New Zealand but never to actually be there for Christmas. I still look back at the video we took and laugh at my parents’ response.

Do you pray?

I don’t pray as such but I do stop, reflect and ask ‘someone’ for guidance.

What is your biggest fear?

In the times we are in. it’s probably the unknown. If Covid could make rats instinct, then that would eliminate one of my biggest fears!

What is your most treasured possession?

I’m not a person that would be sentimental so nothing really jumps out as my most treasured possession.  However, if the house was on fire what would I take? Of course the husband, daughter, two dogs and two cats, and then It would be I hate to say it but the phone! – it’s the link to all my information and photos and I’d definitely take my car and not the husbands! 

What is your favourite thing about living in Waterford?

I’ve had my time living in a big city and spend my time in Dublin.  I love the size of Waterford and that it has so much to offer.  The motorway is on the doorstep so making getting to Dublin easy – when I hit the end of motorway and see the ‘new’ bridge it’s like everything becomes calmer and that feeling ‘I’m home’. Waterford has some great people and go getters and Waterford has attracted so many people from different locations and countries.  It really is the best of all worlds.

If you could change one thing about Waterford, what would it be?

Shower it with sunshine from May to September – the good weather really brings the best out in Waterford and the people thrive on it. But down to something more practical the traffic congestion on the quays is a bug bear of mine.  I’d like to see the city become more vibrant and I really look forward to the North Quays development

 In conversation with Dermot Keyes

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