New chief in Iqaluit’s CAO chair

Big job lies ahead for Ian Fremantle



The city’s newest chief administrative officer hails from the land of Robbie Burns, has something in common with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and shares a few facial characteristics with Tom Selleck.

Sporting a Selleck-style mustache, eyebrows and the 1980s sex symbol’s infamous dimples, Ian Fremantle takes a seat in front of a curious, albeit small, gathering of reporters in council chambers.

A native of Scotland, Fremantle’s résumé included a stint in the military as a special forces commando before emigrating to Canada in 1974. His story as a financial manager in Canada begins at the head office of Sears in Montreal.

Montreal was his home for three years, until he moved to Fort McMurray, Alberta, where, for the next 10 years, he worked in land development and property administration for the Alberta Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

He then took his talents to the eastern coast of Newfoundland, where he first stepped into municipal administration as the town of Pasadena’s chief administrative officer for seven years.

He then went west. He held the position of CAO for three years in Golden and six more years in Powell River, before arriving in Iqaluit to fill the same position March 10.

“The city has a lot of challenges,” Fremantle remarks, “but isn’t much different than other growing communities where everything is undersized.”

Since taking over from the former CAO, Rick Butler, Fremantle has been reviewing the various issues he is expected to deal with over his three-year term.

Council has provided him with a list of priorities, such as a core area capital development plan, a new cemetery, the cataloguing of district assets, new water and sewage treatment facilities, installation of sewage lines in the lower base area, new water supply and a new landfill site.

Fremantle also has a few ideas of his own. He’s looking to shuffle some of the offices at city hall, and possibly relocate some departments to another building.

“The actual workspace and the configuration right now is not conducive to productivity at the hall. Public works’ yard, shop and offices are way undersized, especially for a community of 6,000. And if we go to 10,000, they’re going to be even more undersized,” Fremantle explains.

As well as starting capital projects, Fremantle says he will also be familiarizing himself over the next few months with the city’s legislation, as it differs slightly in every province.

But there’s one important similarity between Nunavut and B.C., Fremantle remarks. Each province is experiencing relatively new working relationships with aboriginal peoples.

“British Columbia, right now, is in the early stages of working more closely with First Nations. The same thing is happening here with the Inuit population. In fact, one of the last things I did before leaving Powell River was put together a draft protocol agreement between the district of Powell River and the First Nations.”

Something else the two municipalities have in common is a troubled sewage system. The company responsible for the design and construction of Iqaluit’s inoperable sewage treatment plant is the same company accused of committing a similar sin in Powell River.

Fremantle played a role in the coastal town’s battle against the company, but beyond that he’s not prepared to go into details. He did say, however, that he and council will work together to find a solution to Iqaluit’s sewage woes.

After all, it’s small-town woes which he prefers over those of bigger, metropolitan municipalities.

“I enjoy the challenge. I like to go somewhere and make a difference. Smaller towns tend to have less levels of bureaucracy. Usually, the problems stem from the fact that they are one-industry towns, and if that starts to fail, the whole infrastructure begins to fail. It’s a domino effect.

“You actually get far more hands-on experience in a smaller community than a bigger one. In a bigger community there are all these different levels, and you become a rubber stamp in a lot of instances.”

Fremantle says he’d rather deal directly with government when it comes to funding, and directly with the contractors when it comes to infrastructure.

“Hopefully, my role here within the next five years is to improve the quality of life in Iqaluit so that we have the services and the ability to house up to 10,000 people, with an expansion factor of another 50 to 75 per cent.”

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