New Fort Smith mayor to keep full-time job

New Fort Smith mayor to keep full-time job
Fort Smith mayor Brad Brake.

Fort Smith’s new Mayor Brad Brake will not be leaving his full-time job with the Government of the Northwest Territories to work at town hall for the next three years, but he says balancing both schedules will not be problematic.

“Right now I’m not (worried),” he told The Journal. “It may actually help me.”

Mayors in Fort Smith are required to put in a minimum of four hours a day on their duties. Brake’s job with the department of Justice has him on shift work, either from morning until mid-afternoon (7:00 a.m – 3:00 p.m.) or mid-afternoon until late at night (3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.). At the end of every seven days, he gets a three or four-day weekend.

“I don’t foresee it to be a problem. Mayors have run businesses here and had families,” he said, adding that he will be at town hall every day. “I think I’ll be able to put as much time as required and more.”

Brake said he will rely more on the town’s senior administrative officer, Jim Hood, with respect to managing the town’s employees.

“I’m going to leave it to the SAO and let people do their jobs,” he said. “Sometimes too much time (at town hall) is not a good thing. You start blurring the lines between government and management.”

Brake was elected by 80 votes over incumbent Janie Hobart during last Monday’s election – a big change from the 2009 election when Hobart beat him by a landslide. He said he worked a lot harder this time around, taking leadership courses over the last few years and upping his campaign efforts, which were plagued by illness in the previous election.

“The fact that I got out to the forums instead of being quarantined helped,” he said.

But he also said the high turnover of senior management positions at town hall over the past year, coupled by a strike, played a factor in his victory.

“People in town were ready for a change because of everything that had happened,” he said.

Brake won’t be sworn in until November, but in the interim, said he is doing a lot of reading to catch up on issues and the role.

Along with his arrival in the mayor’s chair, Brake said he’ll be taking a step back from the community Facebook discussion groups he created, including the “Thebacha Talkabout,” “Fort Smith Community Bulletin Board” and “Fort Smith Buy/Sell/Trade.”

“I’ll be keeping my Facebook account, but I won’t be doing too much admin,” he said.

He is also going to consult with other members of the newly reinvigorated Kaskiw Radio Society, of which he was chosen president, on what role he should play in the media.

As for who is likely to be selected for the deputy mayor position, Brake said he is still deciding and hopes to have a retreat to discuss visions beforehand. But, he said, he may come up with more than one option.

“I’m looking at the possibility of cycling it. If there’s more than one person interested in doing it, it could be on a yearly cycle,” he said. “I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about it. There is a lot of more-than-qualified people on council.”

Only 66 per cent of voters turned out for the election on Oct. 15, a number considered historically low for Fort Smith, according to returning officer Margo Harney. Of the 951 votes cast for mayor, only 926 were counted. Many were spoiled with messages such as “neither of these” written on the ballots.

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