After almost nine years, outgoing Nihtat Gwich’in Council president Jozef Carnogursky can see the impact of his leadership all around town.
From moving back to the Alex Moses Building where many Gwich’in offices work in to the solar panels around town to the Nihtat Gwich’in building itself, Carnogursky has had a hand in it all.
“We really physically changed what Inuvik looks like, for the better, I think. In terms of our new building and the solar panels,” he said. “I really feel that having strong communities under self government will do nothing but strengthen the Gwich’in nation. Every community is unique in some way. We have another land claim group here, but not so much in Tsiigehtchic or Fort McPherson.”
Carnogursky officially stepped down Aug. 31, but has been working with the council to transition into the next election.
Elected in 2012, Carnogursky has been busy working to help the Nihtat council forge its own path in the community. Having implemented a greater amount of local self-governance over the council’s issues, he said Nihtat was able to engage in a number of local development programs it wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.
By establishing partnerships and balancing bank books, Carnogursky said his team was able to improve the livelihood of Gwich’in and other people in the community. Now, with a few remaining projects in motion, he’s stepping aside to focus more on his family and let his wife Lesa Semmler take her turn at elected office.
Among projects still in the cue are efforts to bring a 60-unit housing project to Inuvik to alleviate the waiting list, establishing a women’s shelter for the entire Delta and establishing a school bus program to help improve attendance in school.
“We have a really good team in place,” he said. “We have a proposal into Jordan’s Principle that hopefully will bring busing to Inuvik right away. That will help the whole community, getting kids to school and hopefully helping them do better.
“Our proposal includes two brand new buses, drivers, heat and all of it. We used to have it here, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to go ahead.”
Probably the most rewarding part of the job was being able to get support out to people who needed it, particularly earlier this year during the height of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and being able to supply food for those who needed it.
He said the most important thing whomever follows in his footsteps is to keep people at the forefront and listen as much as possible.
Carnogursky says he’s going to take some time to decompress from the job and collect his thoughts before diving into his next project, though he noted going from 100 per cent busy to not being busy was quite the shock to the system.
“We’re now in a position to offer programs and services we weren’t able to before,” he said. “I’ve had lots of fun along the way, but it’s time to focus more on family and support my wife and what’s she’s doing.
“It’s challenging having two politicians. That’s a lot of politics for one house, one could argue one’s too much for four households.”
A date for the Nihtat Presidential election has not been set yet.