When Pam Gross was a teenager, her godfather Clarence Wood, Inuvik’s mayor at the time, would include her in political and social functions.
“He would say, ‘One day this will be you’,” Gross recalled. “Growing up in a small town, I’ve been fortunate to know a lot of people that have had influential positions… We’re fortunate in our communities to have many role models and know them personally.”
Almost two decades later, Woods’ words have proven prophetic. Voters chose Gross as Cambridge Bay’s mayor in December, naming her on 177 ballots compared to 114 for Wayne Gregory and 98 for Joe Ohokannoak.
The hamlet election came on the heels of a gruelling territorial election campaign in October that saw Gross fall short to Jeanne Ehaloak, Cambridge Bay’s former mayor, by a margin so small that a recount was required.
“I was not thinking of running for mayor until I was actually encouraged immediately after the recount by community members,” Gross said. “I had to think about it that day and then I made my decision. I was nominated and it was a very long campaign trail for both elections. It was very rewarding at the end to find out that I was elected and it was very nice to have so much support from the community in both elections.”
Gross, executive director of the Kitikmeot Heritage Society, isn’t ruling out another run for MLA in the coming years.
“We never know what our future has in store but I hope that it would be a path that may set me up for other avenues in the future,” she said.
In her role as mayor, getting the mould-plagued community arena reopened is among her top priorities. She is also aiming to establish a tourism committee as that sector is growing, thanks in large part to an increasing number of cruise ships traversing the Northwest Passage.
“(We’ll talk) about different ways we can approach how tourists feel when they come here and different things that we can do in the community to spruce up some of the signage, for example,” she said. “There’s great ideas out there of what we can do. We just have to start applying for the funding.”
Gross is also determined to get a recycling program in place.
“We need to start recycling,” she said.
To ensure everyone has a chance to make their voices heard, Gross said she plans to hold town hall meetings at least once each year.
“Hopefully in the early fall we can have a town hall meeting and assess where the community is and shape the coming months and years,” she said.
Beyond that, she said she intends to share different perspectives as a voice for the community and work alongside hamlet staff. She added that she’s looking forward to engaging with the youth through the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council.