Councillor McAlary was first elected to common council in 1992 and served as Deputy Mayor. In 1995, she was elected mayor and served in this role until 2004.
Before serving as mayor for the City, Shirley worked in passenger sales at Air Canada for over twenty-five years. She presently works as a real estate agent. Her volunteer pursuits over the years included various transportation and community groups. She currently serves on the executive for Hospice and Rocmaura Nursing Home, as well as a board member of the SPCA and Fundy Funeral Home.
Shirley identifies transportation and waterfront development as her special areas of interest during her present term as councillor-at-large.