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No second term for Iqaluit mayor
Madeleine Redfern will not run in Oct. 15 election as opportunities open up

Casey Lessard
Northern News Services
Published Friday, July 27, 2012

She'll be remembered as a mayor who knew the power of social media to get a message out. Iqaluit's Madeleine Redfern, whose use of Facebook and Twitter made her an ambassador for the city and Nunavut, will not be mayor after the Oct. 15 municipal election, she announced at city council July 24.

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Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern says it's time to let someone else run the capital city. She made the announcement at city council July 24. - Casey Lessard/NNSL photo

"I have chosen not to run again," the mayor said in her member's statement. Council and staff were informed by e-mail two days prior.

"It was a bit of a surprise," Coun. Mat Knickelbein said after the meeting. "To be honest, I'm kind of disappointed. She's done a stellar job so far and has put in a lot of time and effort, and that shows. Whoever is next in line has big shoes to fill."

Coun. Romeyn Stevenson agreed.

"She has been doing a good job and I'm sure will continue to do a good job until October," Stevenson said, noting a bylaw to raise the mayor's salary passed the same night. "As you can see from the bylaw, we as a council consider it a full-time commitment. Being the mayor of the City of Iqaluit is a big responsibility."

Neither man plans to run to replace Redfern, each content to remain employed as school administrators. Coun. Joanasie Akumalik would not comment when asked if he was considering a run, but had kind words for Redfern.

"I like her and think she ran a good ship," Akumalik said. "I'm wishing that she was running again."

Redfern was elected Dec. 13, 2010, after Elisapee Sheutiapik resigned a year into her third term. In 19 months as mayor, Redfern has led the city through several crises, including two major fires, a mid-winter water main break, a murder-suicide, a standoff at Qikiqtani General Hospital, and a region-wide satellite communications outage. In troubled times, the community has grown accustomed to looking to her office for information, typically through Facebook's Iqaluit Public Service Announcements page.

"I've found it very important as the elected official to communicate to the community in a timely manner and to ensure they had accurate information," Redfern said. "It reduces anxiety, panic or misinformation. It's definitely one of the easier ways to communicate with the public."

As an example, she cited the water main break, which affected residents for five days in January. With workers fighting -50 C conditions to resolve the situation, the community demanded updates in real time.

"It's difficult for print media or even radio to provide those updates when we receive that information," she said. "A lot of our community members are on Facebook. Our local media and national and international media and people who are interested in what's happening in Iqaluit follow the @MayorMadeleine account (on Twitter). I constantly have heard, 'we love the fact that we know what's happening.'"

Seeing unspecified opportunities on the horizon, Redfern decided it would be best to make her intentions public so others can plan to run for the position. She said she's been discussing the decision with her family for a while.

"You're on call 24/7," Redfern warned. "It's a very busy job. It's not a nine-to-five job, five days a week under any circumstance. There are many evenings, weekends, literally going to community events on holidays. But I've very much enjoyed it."

She praised her council colleagues for putting community interests first in their decision-making, and applauded city staff for their tireless work.

"They do an amazing job and often are under-recognized," she said. "They're up at 5 a.m. clearing roads, delivering water until 10 p.m., they work if there's a watermain break, or if there's a fire. They are so dedicated to providing a quality service to our residents."

Recognized before her election as a critic of the territorial government, Redfern ran unsuccessfully against Iqaluit Centre MLA Hunter Tootoo in 2008. She has since used her position to advocate for Iqalungmiut to ensure get the service they deserve from the Government of Nunavut, and would not rule out a run next year.

"I know it's an option," she said. "A lot can happen in 15 months, between now and the territorial election, or between now and the federal election.

"I've always been an active citizen and will remain so," she said. "I will continue to be engaged in community issues, attend community meetings, just in a different capacity."

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