Resolute Bay mayor calls for fiscal responsibility

Businessman who won by a single vote settles into his mayoralty duties



The Dec. 10 municipal election was a squeaker of a vote for Resolute Bay businessman Aziz Kheraj, who beat incumbent George Eckalook by just one ballot.

There are about 126 eligible voters in Resolute Bay, which has a population of 250. About 85 per cent of them showed up at the polls.

“Resolute had one of the highest voter turnouts,” Kheraj said.

Within three days, a recount was requested — usual procedure when results are so close. “But everything was fine,” he said.

Dec. 10 was Kheraj’s third attempt for the mayor’s seat. It’s the first time he hasn’t been declared runner-up.

“I think people wanted a change and I think we got the 35-and-under vote,” he said.

Kheraj admits he targeted younger voters in his campaign and he suggests the under-35 set agreed he “could take Resolute forward, rather than being stagnant.”

He has lived in the hamlet for 23 years. Three years ago, he and his wife opened the South Camp Inn, one of three hotels in Resolute. Between them they have five children and a number of grandchildren.

The new mayor was sworn in on Jan. 7. With his business background, he says he hopes to bring greater fiscal responsibility to the hamlet.

“Our hamlet is severely in a deficit operation, so we’re going to try and bring that in line,” he said. “We just started to go through things and see where we can save a few dollars here and there and cut away the waste.”

Although there is a lot he would like to accomplish for the hamlet, he warns it all has to happen in small steps. His first priority is to get council behind his plans. “The thing is to have them understand how the system works and how to achieve what you want to get.”

He is committed to building recreation facilities, a challenge that has dogged the hamlet for some time.

“We are in the market for an arena. It has been on the books of capital planning for the past 10 years, but it keeps on getting bumped and as far as I know it’s not even on for the next five years,” he says.

Council meets twice a week and Kheraj estimates he will spend between one and two hours daily on his mayoralty work.

In addition to running his inn, and now the hamlet, Kheraj is also chair of the District Education Authority and speaks happily of the hamlet’s school expansion, which is a year ahead of schedule.

The K-12 facility will double in size, to nine classrooms from five, he says. It is expected to open in time for the 2003 school year.

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