Fifteen candidates enter race for Fort Smith

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The Town of Fort Smith has a slate of 15 candidates running for eight council positions.

Councillors running this time around include Louise Beaulieu, Kevin Campbell, Michael Couvrette, Jessica Cox, Ray Currie, Chris DeWolf, Al Dumont, Gerard Fradsham, Keith Hartery, Ron Holtorf, Bob McArthur, Ann Pischinger, Kevin Smith, Brenda Tuckey and Chris Westwell.

The following councillors have opted not to run again: Rashmi Patel, Anneliese Kikoak and Erika Bell.

The following candidates could not be reached with responses by press time: Ronald Holtorf, Ann Pischinger, Gerard Fradsham, Brenda Tuckey and Al Dumont.

 

Ray Currie

Age: 81

Family Status: widower

Time in Area: moved to Fort Simpson in 1970.

Experience: I taught school for 35 years. I worked at the teacher’s college at Aurora College for three years after I retired. I taught first aid for 21 years and I was on the ambulance for 21 years. In the last three and a half years I’ve been the chair of the parish council of Cathedral Church. It was my good luck to oversee the conversion from oil heating to electric furnace hot water to the tune of $3.5 million.

Why running: I am at the age where it doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t like what I do because at my age I don’t care. To paraphrase Mother Theresa – she wrote a poem anyway. If I do something for the good of the town and the people don’t like it, I will do it anyway.

What differentiates you from other candidates: My age is one thing. My experience and the fact that I am not political. I am sure not going to be running again.

Top election issue: Everybody has been talking about the need for extra lighting in town. Expansion of the cemetery and with the inclusion of a columbarium. Improvement of the garbage dump to include a recycling area and a composting area.

What does a healthy community look like to you: With less vandalism by kids who thumb their nose at everything because they are too young. Another thing is that anybody who has a concern about the village should be able to bring it forth without anyone saying anything. If bothers somebody, it is worth looking into.

 

Mike Couvrette

Age: 58 years old

Time in Area: I have lived in Fort Smith since 1986 and in the NWT since 1970.

Family status: common law

Experience: I served on council in the mid-nineties for one term. My experience has been I spent the last 15 years  GNWT career working on economic development related issues.

Why running: The town needs a clear vision on where  it is going to go and develop how to become economically sustainable community.

What differentiates: I like to think long term.

Top election issue: Sustainable economic development and growth.  We are a stagnant community and that is not terribly healthy. The last time the community did a comprehensive visioning exercise was in the early nineties. We need a pretty good road map to know where we are going. Doing business just on a day to day basis is not good governance.

What does a healthy community look like to you: A community that is prospering and growing.

 

Louise Beaulieu

Age: 59

Family Status: Single

Time in Area: Born and raised in Fort Smith in 1958.

Experience: First-time candidate. Lot of leadership experience. Broke a few barriers here in the NWT. I was the first female to be on a forestry crew to reach fire boss level for Fort Smith. I mandate and staff my own crew at fire camps. I was the first female in that position to reach fire boss level. The first one – I started female fire fighting. Started in 1979 as a cook radio operator. By 1984 I was the crew boss for my own crew. Did 26 years of forestry fire fighting total.

I also was the first female sergeant for the Fort Smith patrol with the Canadian Rangers. Started in 1992 when I had a relative of mine go missing. The founder was Lori Hobart and that fall I took over as sergeant and was in that position for 15 years.

Why Running: I’ve seen a lot of changes in Fort Smith and I’ve seen a lot of things come and go. I think it is time they had someone who was born and raised here have a little input on the changes and what could become of Fort Smith. I am not promising anything on a golden platter, but I will try my best.

What differentiates you from other candidates: My experience and my life. I am pretty much a planner and organizer. I’m not a spotlight person, but I like to be in the background saying that I started this and handed it over to someone else to keep it going. I have done a lot of things throughout my life where I have been a leader.

Top election issue (s): Vandalism in the community and the college and university in Fort Smith.

Healthy community- Where people get involved and become interested in having a healthy environment rather than let things go out of hand.

 

Jessica Cox

Age: 40

Time in Area: 18 years.

Family Status: Married 13 years to Karl Cox.

Experience: First-time candidate.

Why Running: I want to be part of a Fort Smith Town Council that will work together to make decisions to benefit the entire community. There are several significant municipal infrastructure decisions coming up, including decisions to be made about town hall, Mary Kaeser Library and a mid-life retrofit of the Recreation and Community Centre, and I want to be part of those decisions.

What differentiates you from other candidates: I am a dedicated volunteer with a strong background in recreation.

Top election issue: Strength and presence of our community on a territorial level.

What does a healthy community look like to you: A healthy community is one in which residents have meaningful social connections and are supported in their decisions to make healthy lifestyle choices, including being physically active.

 

Keith Henry Hartery

Age: not provided

Time in Area: I am a life long Northerner (born and raised in Yellowknife). I have lived in Fort Smith for 14 years. I originally moved here to attend the Natural Resources Technology Program at Aurora College.

Family Status: Single

Experience: I have no political experience, but do have experience as a community contributor as a member of the Sustainable Development Board, Library Board, the Museum Board and the Recreation Advisory Board.

Why running: I am running to ensure Fort Smith stays the centre of education in the territory and becomes a destination for retirees. I will work so that it remains a safe and healthy community.

 

Chris DeWolf

Age: 57

Time in Area: Over 20 years.

Family Status: Single

Experience: As a small business owner, community volunteer and former town employee, I have a vast and varied skill set and experiences to draw from that will bring a fresh perspective to the role of councillor. I was a member and the programming co-ordinator for The Artists of the South Slave Society (TASSS), helped the Northern Life Museum and Cultural Centre’s program co-ordinator with the organization of Summer Splash. While both TASSS and Summer Splash experiences were art focused, they were successful events that required organizational skills, time management skills and the ability to co-ordinate and manage a multitude of dynamic aspects including artists, participants, logistics, venues and scheduling, advertising and funding sources. As a former employee of the Town of Fort Smith, I understand the duties and processes of town administration.

Why Running: I am running because I want to contribute to the community in a meaningful way rather than be one of those people who criticizes while sitting comfortably at home. I would like to see some positive changes take place in several different areas including the town’s leadership approach, which appears to be more reactive than proactive, rejuvenating two-way communication between town hall and residents, I would like to see a comprehensive economic development strategy that includes a shop local policy. The town needs to lead by example and utilize services and businesses with each and every opportunity.

What differentiates you from other candidates: I am a citizen not a politician. I will be a citizen for actions not political speak. I take pride in my community and want Fort Smith to return to its days of vibrancy and strength when there was a true sense of belonging and co-operation among all groups and residents.

Top election issue: There are currently a few concerns for Fort Smith. The youth crime that has been taking place for the past two years is a big one. This crime has affected all quarters of our community. Many people have told me they feel like hostages in their own homes, particularly our elders. We need to make our citizens feel safe.

With the current reactive leadership approach regarding the proposed removal of Aurora College headquarters, our residents are facing potential job losses. Our leadership needs to strengthen its relationships with all levels of government and refrain from working in isolation.We need to be accountable to our ratepayers by being fiscally responsible through increased efficacy and good governance and management.

What does a healthy community look like to you: A healthy community is one where residents feel valued, connected, vibrant, safe and diverse. A healthy community has a flourishing business sector and facilities that are used to their full potential. I want Fort Smith to be a community we are proud of.

 

Kevin Smith

Age: 45

Time in the area: 20 years.

Family status: Married with three kids.

Experience: Three terms on council, heavily involved as vice-president for Arctic Winter Games, served on town council from 2009 to 2018.

Why Running: There are some serious issues facing Fort Smith that call for a strong and experienced council. The town will also need to make some decisions soon about renovating the recreation centre and what to do about aging buildings like the library and town hall. The town has great staff and a proven ability to get good things done, which makes me want to return to council for another term.

What differentiates you from other candidates: I have nine years of consecutive experience as a councillor and I have learned a lot of lessons along the way that will help council when faced with difficult decisions.

Top election issue: The future of Aurora College for Fort Smith as the college is the economic backbone of this community. How government proceeds around the issue of a university or a polytechnic institute is critical to the health and well-being of the community. The future of Aurora College is the most immediate issue for Fort Smith but this is also part of a continuing trend where Yellowknife benefits at the expense of the communities. Fort Smith needs a strong municipal government and community leadership that will hold the GNWT accountable.

What does a healthy community look like to you: I think a healthy community is a diverse community, where the cost of living is reasonable, where there are employment and business opportunities to pursue, where families want to live and raise their children and where there are a range of programs and services to engage youth and elders. A healthy community is a place with active volunteers and where people are empowered to get involved and make a difference, which is exactly what we have in Fort Smith.

 

Chris Westwell  

Age: 35 and I have issues with asking candidates their ages. It simply creates an opportunity for people to make sweeping judgments that are not based on one’s contribution to the community, work ethic, ability to work collaboratively or political stance. Seems to open the door to age discrimination for both young candidates and seniors.

Time in Area: 15 years.

Family Status: This is yet another questionable request. Sounds more like a litmus test of “traditional values” that may just create bias against younger candidates and others whom may no longer be married or even wish to marry.

Experience: Two terms as town councilor from 2009 to 2015. Chair of the Town of Fort Smith Corporate Services Standing Committee 2010 to 2015. Current UNW Local 12 president and other various UNW Local 12 executive positions over the last nine years. Current Chair of the Town of Fort Smith Sustainable Development Advisory Board and board member for the last eight years. Fort Smith Housing Authority Board Member for five years. Current treasurer and board member of the Northern life museum and Culture Centre for eight years. Other assorted not for profit society roles and activities over the last 10 years.

Why Running: I love the work; Fort Smith is my home and this is one of the ways I can give back to a community that has been so good to me. I have remained active in public advisory board roles while I wasn’t on council and we made a lot of progress on important initiatives for our community. I would now like to pick up the ball from the council side of things and see things through.

What differentiates you from other candidates: I have worked with and know many of the candidates who have put their names forward. I would look forward to working with whomever the citizens of Fort Smith select to be their councillors. I would expect and hope that each of us brings something unique to the community that sets us apart, it is variety that makes democracy work.

Top election issue:  I want to work with council and the Town of Fort Smith on enhancing our bylaws, zoning and taxation systems to ensure they are fair and optimized for sustainable growth in all sectors while also being attractive to developers, businesses and new residents.

But there is never just one issue facing a community, and in my experience, things are never as simple or honest as election promises and platforms make them out to be. There is always a lot of work to be done in advancing policy development. There is the ongoing work to be done ensuring our town has the necessary resources available to adequately maintain, upgrade and improve our vital infrastructure.

The town has adopted a new and very comprehensive waste management plan that I believe could use extra support from within council to see initiated and successfully launched in a manner that is sustainable and equitable to rate payers.

Obviously the GNWT’s plans for Aurora College is an important issue that is on nearly everyone’s minds.

What does a healthy community look like to you: It looks a lot like Fort Smith; not perfect but working on it.

 

Bob McArthur

Age: 61 years young

Time in the area: 55 years

Family Status: Married, three daughters

Experience: Six years as councillor for the Town of Fort Smith.

Why Running: I want to support local businesses and keep Aurora College in Fort Smith.

What differentiates you from other candidates: I was raised, educated, married, raised my children and work in Fort Smith. I am committed to seeing our town prosper and confident that I can do a great job
Top election issue: Affordable housing; town infrastructure and the college.

What does a healthy community look like to you: A community with low crime rate, venues for families, a homeless shelter for both men and women, affordable and more housing and more jobs.

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Simon Whitehouse
Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. He came from Prince Edward County, Ont., and obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Working in Yellowknife, he covers education-based stories and general news but has also taken other beats in the past, including city hall and entertainment. He is a champion of the printed word and the importance of newspapers. As a board member of the United Way NWT and Rotary True North, he believes in the importance of civic engagement and community building. He spends his spare time with his boxer Sharona. Simon can be reached at (867) 766-8307 and editorial@nnsl.com.