Kandis Jameson is admittedly coming off a tough introduction as Hay River’s mayor.
Jameson will enter her second term as municipal leader after nominations closed on Sept. 20 and it was revealed that she had no challengers. It was the second time she attained the office by acclamation.
This will also mark her fourth term on town council in total.
With fires, floods and pandemics during the period between 2018 and 2021, the last term may stack up as one of the most challenging ever faced by the municipal council. A 2019 fire at the Mackenzie Place highrise led to severe disruptions in housing market availability. Major flooding of the Hay River this year forced the evacuation of many residents from Vale Island and lingering drainage issues. COVID-19 led to a pause in town business and public health and safety being brought to the forefront.
“The last three years have not been easy but because of the support of people in the community and people being engaged, it makes the job a lot easier,” Jameson said. “I think if there was a lot of fighting and negativity in the community out there I don’t think that I would have put my name forward again.”
Engagement from the community, she says, means that residents are willing to present ideas, not just complain about problems.
“I’ve got more complaints about homelessness than about anything else in the municipality, but we have a lot of support because I find people will come not just with a problem, but they come with solutions,” she said.
At 57 years old, Jameson has lived in Hay River for more than 40 years and graduated from Diamond Jenness Secondary School. She spent 15 years working in banking before purchasing Hay River Disposal with her husband. They also own Jameson holdings.
Among the continued challenges she sees lying ahead for the community include the need to develop more land for housing, replacing the town’s aging landfill and working to address climate change.
“Climate change, as you know, that’s been one of our biggest challenges in many ways because of our drainage and flood mitigation,” the mayor said. “But it also has affected our water treatment plant with the turbidity of the water.”
Aging infrastructure, with some roads and sewers being up to 70 years old, also need to be replaced at a substantial cost, she added.
“The big stuff is the underground infrastructure — the water treatment plant and landfill that maybe aren’t as exciting but definitely present a necessity to life in a community or a small town,” she said. “We’ve taken a big chunk out of our needs and replaced a lot of infrastructure, but one of our challenges is going to be continuing to find the dollars to do needed replacement.”
Ensuring that the federal government provides the bulk of that funding will mean greater ease to ratepayers, she said.
With the exception of Steve Anderson, who is not running again, all of last term’s council is seeking re-election. She said she’s optimistic about the members of the town who have put their names forward for council and added that having council continuity in the next term will be important.
“Any government needs continuity… and even if we had only half of our councillors deciding not to run again, that’s a huge gap and would take a lot of effort to try and get people up to speed and knowing what’s going on,” said Jameson.