ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Kathy Dunderdale is running for the leadership of Newfoundland and Labrador's Progressive Conservative party as she makes a bid to hold on to the premier's seat, a job she initially accepted on an interim basis.

"I am enthusiastically here this morning to throw my hat into the ring," Dunderdale announced at a news conference Thursday.

"It's an exciting opportunity for me that I've taken some time to consider, as I promised I would, over the Christmas holidays."

The announcement marks a shift in Dunderdale's thinking from when she was sworn-in about four weeks ago to replace Danny Williams. She had initially indicated she wanted to focus on running the province, not running a leadership campaign.

"It was important to me to have a seamless transition. There wasn't a lot of advance notice about the resignation of premier Williams," she said, adding that she only found out the night before it happened.

Dunderdale's announcement comes after senior cabinet ministers said they won't be candidates for the leadership.

"I've had time to have conversations with colleagues and friends and family, of course, and it's an exciting opportunity, one that I didn't expect," she said.

Dunderdale said she was prepared to step down as premier if other candidates come forward to challenge for the party's top job.

Nominations close Jan. 10. The party has said a leadership convention will be held in the spring.

When she was sworn-in, Dunderdale became the province's first female premier.

At the time, she called her elevation to premier a bittersweet day.

The 58-year-old grandmother of three said women in the province had gone from having no vote in 1925 to holding top political office. But she said it was also wrenching to see Williams leave politics after a raucous and successful seven-year stint.

On Thursday, Dunderdale said she would bring a different style than Williams to the premier's office if she wins the leadership.

"I'm a different act," she said. "All of us bring our own strengths, our own personality to whatever we do. I have confidence in my ability to do this job."

Dunderdale is a former social worker and communications specialist.

She became the 10th premier of Newfoundland and Labrador on Dec. 3, just over a week after Williams stunned the province with news that he was quitting politics to resume his business career.

Dunderdale is one of just six women ever to lead a province in Canada. The only other female premier in the country is Eva Aariak of Nunavut.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, all three political parties are now led by women.

Dunderdale attended Memorial University of Newfoundland. She cut her political teeth as a town councillor, eventually becoming deputy mayor of Burin, her hometown on the island's southern shore.

The next fixed-date provincial election in Newfoundland and Labrador is set for October.