Leading by example
Clyde River’s 25-year-old mayor is ready for a challenge.
Sandy Kautuq says he wants to help his community — but the 25-year-old mayor of Clyde River has been helping for years.
At age 23, he was elected to hamlet council. A year after that, he became deputy mayor. When the former mayor stepped down about five months ago, Kautuq decided he wanted to fill his shoes.
On Dec. 10, Kautuq ran for the mayor’s job and won handily, with 175 votes compared with Leah Tassugat’s 58.
Speaking a few days after his win, Kautuq was more excited about going caribou hunting and fishing with his father on the weekend and talked excitedly about the trip.
The break is well deserved. From 8:15 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day, Kautuq works as an assistant teacher at Quluaq School in Clyde River, then rushes to the hamlet office to take care of community affairs.
“I mainly work with the Grade 8s,” he explains. “There are about 18 students, and that group is multi-aged and probably the most difficult to teach.”
He helps with English, social sciences and math and teaches Inuktitut.
Strangely, he doesn’t help with student council. He says he’s more into sports and plans to start helping with the principal’s badminton club after Christmas.
His younger sister, though, has shown a similar political savvy. She was voted president of her school’s student council this year. His mother, too, is chairperson of the women’s group in Clyde River.
“I’ve always liked politics, all through my growing up,” he admits. “I’ve always looked up to John Amagoalik and Zebedee Nungak — since I was a little boy.”
Kautuq has his work cut out for him as mayor. He faces some challenges, including a 72.3 per cent unemployment rate.
“We have about a $500,000 deficit and that will be my top priority — to go through a deficit recovery plan and try and work to maybe even a surplus,” he says. “Yes, there’s a lot to be done here in my community.”
He says his age has not been a hindrance in his political career. People don’t treat him any differently than they do other community representatives, he says.
“I get respect from elders, kids — everyone,” he says slowly. “I feel like it’s a gift from God.”
He was hoping to begin the Nunavut Teacher Education Program through Arctic College this year, but there were not enough applicants, so the department postponed it until the fall.
He hopes to complete the four-year program and get his Bachelor of Education from McGill University.
“I think the big thing is we have to educate our youngsters. Education and training are the big key, I think.”
Whether he will try to branch out beyond municipal politics is still unclear. “I’m not too sure yet. I’ll let the people here decide that,” he says with a chuckle.