Events in Norman Wells over the past two weeks confirm the expression that good things come in threes.
Norman Wells Mayor Frank Pope was nominated by the community and his fellow councillors on Dec. 9 for Canada’s Top Mayor Award.
The contest is a friendly competition between the country’s municipal leaders to bring communities together and recognize the positive contributions of residents.
The winning community and mayor will be awarded a prize for community improvements or for local charitable causes and receive a Community Cup Trophy.
“I am really pumped about the nomination,” Pope said. “I was initially thinking this was an award for a mayor from big-city Canada, so I was juiced with the opportunity to have a small Northern community mayor compete with the big boys down south. I hope that other small communities also took this opportunity to show off their community. I am proud of my council, very proud of my community and our residents, especially how we have collectively addressed Covid-19 for the past nine months.”
According to a video posted to YouTube called The Frank Pope Story, the Norman Wells mayor came to Canada from Scotland more than 40 years ago to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company in Northern Ontario.
He eventually made his way to the NWT, where he lived in Aklavik, Fort Good Hope and Inuvik before settling in Norman Wells. He has worked in various roles for government and in natural resource development.
Pope said in the video that his biggest accomplishment as mayor was taking over with the current council from the previous one that was “tainted.”
Former mayor Nathan Watson and his council were removed from their roles by the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs in October 2017 amid conflict of interest and improper procedure allegations.
Watson and the former SAO faced a civil lawsuit over alleged fraud.
“(The council) had been put into administration. In our election, we elected myself with some background and experience in municipal affairs and six brand new councillors with no experience whatsoever. In a short period of time we’ve worked with these councillors, we’ve got the faith of the community back because we’re very transparent. We let people know what we’re doing.”
The mayor said the greatest lesson he has learned in his time as the town’s elected leader is the need for transparency with the community.
“If people ask you a question, answer it, don’t push them away. Always be respectful to people. Address concerns they have. Don’t be afraid to go to social events. Go out and be part of the community,” he advised.
Just days before Pope’s nomination, no less than 3,000 lbs of frozen chicken products were delivered to Norman Wells on Dec. 3 through Food Banks Canada’s surplus food recovery program. North-Wright Airways transported the chicken to the community. The federal government partnered with Food Banks Canada as part of its Covid-19 response.
The chicken will be available for free to residents.
“Many community members have already benefitted and will continue to benefit from having access to frozen chicken products,” said Pope. “Given the high cost of goods in the North, and the extreme financial impacts our community has faced during Covid-19, the frozen chicken products are a blessing to many families in Norman Wells.”
Rampart Rentals Grocery is storing many of the products until residents can pick them up.
To top off the town’s good fortune, on Nov. 27, Michael McLeod, MP for the NWT, announced that the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) is providing $464,000 in funding for a new waste management facility in Norman Wells.
The project will be jointly managed by CanNor and the Norman Wells Land Corporation (NWLC).
Sherry Hodgson, president of the NWLC, said there is a need for such a facility in the Sahtu town to “handle years of waste that are left unmanaged, even outside of Norman Wells, from old abandoned projects to community-generated wastes.”
Details such as when the facility will open or how many people will be employed by the project weren’t yet known.