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Five choices for mayor in the Delta

Nathalie Heiberg-Harrison
Northern News Services
Published Monday, December 5, 2011

Four candidates with a wealth of leadership and community experience are set to challenge incumbent Mayor Hazel Nerysoo in Fort McPherson's hamlet elections on Dec. 12.

Bill Prodromidis, who served as mayor until Nerysoo defeated him in 2009, will have his name on the ballot, as will James Andre, a former deputy mayor, Ruby Koe, a band councillor, and Johnny W. Kay, a former chief who currently serves as executive director of the Tetlit Gwich'in council.

They are all touting their strong backgrounds of community leadership and involvement, but differ when it comes to what they would do if elected.

James Andre has served as deputy mayor and chief in the community, and was chair of the Fort McPherson settlement before it became a hamlet. He said that in that role, he helped the community build a new hamlet building, start up its radio station - CBQM - and initiated annual meetings where residents could raise their concerns.

"I think my past experience speaks for itself," he said.

If elected, one of his main goals would be to create more opportunities for youth in town.

"They forever talk about youth but nothing is done for them," he said.

Andre said an indoor pool that could be used year round, a BMX park and an improved arena would all be assets to the community and are much needed.

"You can't even watch hockey. You'd freeze in there," he said.

Band councillor Ruby Koe said her goal, if elected, is to create more unity in the community and with other organizations within the Gwich'in Tribal Council.

"Sometimes we find ourselves not connected very well," she said. "I would like to see the band and the hamlet work really closely with one another, doing long-term goals and short-term goals."

An improved swimming pool and increased recreation programming were also priorities for her.

Koe said her strong family background in politics, as well as her people-oriented attitude, would help her make changes in Fort McPherson.

Johnny W. Kay, who served as chief in the community until 2007, said he is ready to get back into politics, although he was hesitant to state a platform for the election.

"I believe I will leave that up to the community members," he said. "They have to say what they want and I will leave that up to them."

He acknowledged that Fort McPherson has its challenges, like any community in the North, but chose to focus on its positive aspects.

"I always look at the positive things in the community, you know, and look at all the things the community is doing," he said.

Incumbent Hazel Nerysoo will try for her second term as mayor.

She was quick to defend her record, highlighting the fact the hamlet took over all municipal services - water, sewage and waste disposal - in the past two years, and now employs 14 more people.

In addition, there has been ongoing beautification work, including updates to sidewalks and the installation of new benches, she said.

"I like to get things done. Making a safer community has always been an issue of mine, whether I was on council or not," she said.

Nerysoo, who has served as sub-chief, hamlet councillor and band councillor in the past, said she would follow the community's strategic plan if re-elected.

Some of her plans include the construction of a new four-bay garage for hamlet vehicles, more upgrades at the landfill and dust control on the community's roads.

In addition, she is hoping to complete more renovations at the complex.

"It's something that we're looking at, redoing the complex," she said.

Prodromidis said his record during his last term as mayor, from 2007 to 2009, proves he's the right man for the job.

"I delivered everything, everything I promised them. We built a new building, we moved to a new building, we did it on budget, we got out of a deficit - it was $165,000," he said.

In addition, he said he lowered the hamlet's water rates and made a policy of hiring local people.

His main goal, if elected, is to build a safe house in the community for victims of abuse and improve housing.

"Everybody's talking about the swimming pool, but nobody's getting to the priorities for the community," he said.

In addition to the mayoral race, seven residents will be competing for four council seats.

Incumbent councillors Leslie Blake and William James Clark will try to defend their seats against challengers Christine Firth, Larry Firth, Peter Firth, Johnny Peterson and Abe Wilson.

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