Iqaluit’s chief administrative officer, Amy Elgersma, has resigned after nearly five years in the position. (File photo courtesy of the City of Iqaluit)

‘I’ve had a really rewarding career here’: Iqaluit CAO on resignation

Amy Elgersma’s last day as chief administrative officer is scheduled to be Nov. 11

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Amy Elgersma, who began her career with the city as a lifeguard 23 years ago, said she has resigned as chief administrative officer for the City of Iqaluit for a new job elsewhere.

She has been the city’s top staffer since taking on the role of acting CAO in February 2018. She informed city council by letter Sept. 13 that her final day will be Nov. 11.

After more than two decades working for the city and living in Iqaluit, she said it’s time to move on.

“The longevity of my stay demonstrates, I think, how much the city and the community means to me,” Elgersma said in an interview Monday.

“I’ve had a really rewarding career here in Iqaluit and this has been a welcoming home for me.”

City council is expected to discuss Elgersma’s vacancy at its next meeting Tuesday night.

On Twitter, Mayor Kenny Bell called her departure “a huge loss for our City,” adding it was “a pleasure to work with Amy” and he wished her well in the future.

Elgersma said she is leaving Iqaluit for a job with another municipality in Ontario, for which she said she’s in the final stages of working out details.

Overall, she said, she’s had positive experiences working for the city.

Originally from Guelph, Ont., she moved to Iqaluit in 1999 to be the senior lifeguard with the city. After a few years, she took on a co-ordinator role where she helped structure programming for the city’s youth centre.

She then became the recreation department’s assistant director for a short time before being promoted to director of the department.

She held that position for nearly 10 years before taking on the acting chief administrative officer role in February 2018. Her LinkedIn profile shows she holds a master of business adminstration degree.

In March 2019, council appointed her to the position full-time.

“I think what really helped me … was that I had an understanding of the internal workings of the organization and I really had the support of the city staff,” she said of working her way up to chief administrative officer.

Elgersma said she’s most proud of her role in seeing the Aquatic Centre built, which she worked on for five years. It opened in January 2017, while she was recreation director, and she said it’s been rewarding to see how it has benefited the community.

She said she’s also proud of an application to the federal government that led to the city receiving $214 million for an additional reservoir among other solutions to the city’s water infrastructure needs.

Elgersma spoke to the challenges she and the city faced during the water crisis last fall when residents were without safe drinking water.

The city was without a full-time director of public works at the time, and she said she worked 14-hour days for two months trying to resolve the emergency, which she called complex, wide-reaching and surprising.

There was pressure from the community to correct the problem, and difficulties in keeping staff motivated to come to work every day over that long period.

“This particular event was a very long and tiresome event and it did take a toll. It took a toll on people and many staff are still feeling some of the drain from that time because it was quite challenging,” Elgersma said.

“We needed every single person that we had.… The level of commitment and dedication was incredible and like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”

She said she was fatigued from the experience, but that she is leaving the city for a new job opportunity.

Elgersma said Iqaluit is a special place to live and thanked city staff for their commitment to running the city.

“It’s a very welcoming place and it has many unique opportunities that other cities do not have. I think that Iqalummiut need to be proud of their city,” she said.

 

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(14) Comments:

  1. Posted by Young one on

    I learned to swim in her early days in Iqaluit and she was the one who taught me and permitted me in the deep end.

    She was also there for advice and discipline during my teen years at the youth centre and she also brought in other youth workers for the right job, I am friends eith some of those former youth crntre employees to this day and I can credit my ability to swim to her.

    She’s had a bigger impact in my life than I knee till this day.

    Thank you for everything, Amy.

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  2. Posted by Angiyuqulu on

    Well done Elgersma. 23 years with one employer is commendable. 4.5 years as CAO is even more admirable. Best wishes wherever the path of life leads you. Iqaluit certainly had a dedicated cadre during the water crisis. I hope Council is able to replace you with an Inuk CAO. It’s about time that Inuit stepped forward to take leadership of their affairs.

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  3. Posted by Terraformed on

    Great story of someone working and earning their way up through the ranks, the way it should be done. Today we see too many people expecting job roles to be handed over to them, well before they have demonstrated a capacity to handle them. Unsurprisingly many of these do not succeed, and unfortunately such people inflict their lack of experience and incompetence onto their organizations.

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  4. Posted by Tax payer on

    All replaceable and watch our Mayor has a full time job to put to work and may not run again for next election,

    Number of things to watch for future days months years.

    Tax payer

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    • Posted by Good luck on

      The good news is that most do not want the mayor to run in the next election. Good luck to anyone who wants to hire him following his term.

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  5. Posted by Bert Rose on

    Thank you for your years of service!

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  6. Posted by Build a Team on

    The CAO needs to build a team to be successful. While no doubt Ms Elgersma works very hard, she failed to build a team. There is over 30 vacancies posted on the cities website right now, and have been many during her tenure including the 2 year vacancy of a public works director. Mayor and Council need to look closely at why the CAO could not fill these vacancies and hire someone who can build a strong team. Only with a CAO who can build a team and not just do everything themselves will the city thrive.

    Thanks for your service Amy, but its time we build capacity and not just farm it out to consultants and contractors.

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    • Posted by Team Building on

      Spoken like someone whose never had to try and hire people in the North. It’s not as easy as you think. Many of those vacancies required high levels of education and experience. When someone has that type of education and experience they typically aren’t desperate for a job let alone come to a place where they will be over-worked, underpaid, and treated like dirt just for being human.

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      • Posted by Southerner in the North on

        And don’t forget, with virtually no private market rental housing available, if the City can’t arrange for housing for new hires they aren’t going to take up job offers (and nobody in the right mind would buy a house until after they’ve passed the probation period for the job).

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        • Posted by Build a Team on

          The housing supply issue is directly attributed to council and the cities inaction on land development and basic infrastructure. The GN may be able to use these excuses as to why it cannot recruit, but the City of Iqaluit has direct control of building lot supply, delivery of water/sewer service, and its compensation packages. They need to stop passing the buck and coming up with excuses and start taking action. Their inaction creates staffing challenges for themselves but also all other employers in this town.

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      • Posted by AllOkay on

        As a recent hire trying to fill critical vacancies, I haven’t been treated like dirt. It’s been quite pleasant in fact. The pay is sufficient but the real issue for a municipal employee is the lack of benefits compared to down south or the GN or Feds. The pension is especially out of line. If you are later career and experience , over 40, and the position is reliant on RRSP contributions, you will max out contribution room too quickly and have no tax advantage. Most experienced civil servants and technical staff will either look for higher paying private sector jobs, or for a better pension and benefit package. Otherwise only those well under 40 will apply, and they won’t stay long, just long enough to get some “exotic” Nunavut experience under their belt. This CAO was an exception. Right now nothing can get built or developed in Iqaluit and Nunavut because there are too few civil servants for infrastructure. A tanking stock market, and lousy housing choices make recruitment almost impossible. I was asked almost right away to review local and Inuit qualified co-workers for training up, but all would require a half-decade of down south education to meet required standards. And another half-decade of down south experience for licensing. I admire this CAO for sticking it out from youth, but she’s the exception and she cannot build a team with an uncompetitive offer package. It’s a shame because the work up here can be really interesting and a challenge.

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        • Posted by Then Take that to Council on

          The CAO had the ability to take those concerns to council to why they cannot staff. The CAO is the only employee of council and needs to tell them what they need to do their job. Amy very well could have gone to council and said we need to get a pension plan in place and address our housing shortfall to attract and retain staff. Part of her job is to identify and rectify these barriers, not just shrug your shoulders. Good organizations figure our what they need to attract talent, and if that means higher pay, housing, and a pension, then tell council that and make it happen!

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          • Posted by Southerner in the North on

            And I’m sure this was discussed within City Hall and with the Mayor, but ultimately the Mayor decides what goes on the public agenda. There are lots of smart people on Council. They know where the recruitment problems are.

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        • Posted by GnEmp on

          Well said. Now come to the dark side, we have free coffee at the GN.

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