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Returning to Fort Simpson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, April 15, 2010
John Ivey, a former resident of Fort Simpson who has served in several administrative positions throughout the NWT, spoke to Deh Cho Drum last week at the end of his first day on the job, minutes before that night's village council meeting.
"The first day went fine, and I'm looking forward to my first meeting. It's a pleasure being back," said Ivey.
Although born in Bathurst, N.B., Ivey has spent most of his adult life in the North, serving as the SAO in Fort Good Hope and Whati and band manager in Nahanni Butte and Behchoko.
Most recently, he spent the last year-and-a-half as SAO of the arts-rich hamlet of Cape Dorset in Nunavut.
That stay, he said, was "an opportunity to see Nunavut. I had been there a long time ago in the 1970s, and I wanted to get back.
"But I have a cabin here and when the opportunity came open to apply to this job, I did."
The seven-day drive to the village from Ottawa only helped reinforce Ivey's warm feelings for Fort Simpson.
"It is a beautiful part of the world. Driving up here, you can't help but be mesmerized by the beauty. It's nice. I'm glad to be back."
This time, he may stay permanently, he said.
"I'm hoping to retire here. That's the plan, if possible. The rope's getting pretty tight. Probably seven to eight years."
The job of an SAO is, as Ivey described it, "essentially town management."
"It's no different from being city manager of Edmonton or Yellowknife. You attend meetings. You enact bylaws. You follow out the wishes of council.
"In some places, it's dogs, ditches and dumps, as they call it. In other places, like in Cape Dorset, we had social programs, housing programs, justice programs ... But there are no bands in Nunavut, so the municipal government did everything.
"Here, it's more select. We do municipal works only, pretty much. Roads, the dump, recreation, water and sewage..."
Asked if he would like to help prod any specific initiatives along, Ivey said he would personally like to see tourism grow in the region.
"It could be the gateway. Fort Simpson has a couple of airlines - Simpson Air and Wolverine Air - and they're both very good. They both say they're not getting as much tourism activity as they could."
As for his off-time, Ivey is looking forward to visiting his cabin at Lindberg's Landing near Blackstone Territorial Park, off the Liard Highway. He purchased the cabin, originally built in the 1970s, four years ago. By the sounds of it, the place needs a lot of work.
"It's no Ponderosa, but it's good to get out on the weekends and get away from all the stress," he said.
"For now, I may put another floor in to give it another five year's life. We'll see what happens."