Sheldon Tetreault, Mt. Currie Band’s (MCB) senior administrator, has resigned. Tetreault, who assumed the role four years ago, will be leaving Aug. 1 to take a position with a newly created First Nations non-governmental organization dedicated to self-governance.
Tetreault will be joining National Centre for First Nations Governance (NCFNG) www.fngovernance.org as regional manager. The centre’s mandate is to advance First Nation self-government in Canada. As regional manager, he will have an office at Park Royal but also work a significant amount of time from a home office in the Pemberton Valley.
Although excited about the opportunity to work with the First Nations think tank, he is not without his regrets.
"We’ve got two major projects I would have liked to have seen through. We’re planning a major renovation ($3 million) on the old gym and a new governance centre," said the 35-year-old administrator.
The renovation of the gym in the old part of Mt. Currie is especially close to Tetreault’s heart.
"The gym is such a key part of the community. It’s used every night. It’s used by youth and elders. That’s where all the community meetings are held. It’s where weddings and dances are held. It’s a dump. That’s a project I would have liked to oversee."
At the NCFNG, Tetreault will be developing a rollout plan for B.C. that will incorporate the centre’s four key offerings: research, public awareness, advisory services and professional development.
"There are 198 bands in B.C. and there’s no criteria for the qualifications of their administrators," he said. Tetreault, who holds a masters degree and was awarded an Aspen Institute scholarship last year, is committed to increasing the professionalism within First Nations governance. This longstanding ideal is apparent in the track record of achievement he takes with him.
What he’s most proud of is a positive financial legacy he leaves the MCB.
"When I walked in we had $3.8 million debt, and for us, that’s huge. We also had a cash flow issue. From one week to the next, we were almost unable to meet payroll or the social assistance run. If we could not have made the run we would have collapsed."
The band did not collapse because the community chose to make some hard decisions.
"We were open and honest, we went to council and to the community and presented them with all the information and they chose the toughest option."
By selling assets, entering into a five-year forestry agreement, cutting back on staffing and streamlining programs, the band was able to reverse its fortune and change from being governed reactively to proactively.
Aside from tackling the financial disaster that was crippling the band, Tetreault was a driving force behind the Lil’wat Nation Strategic Plan, incorporating it into the Council/Administration accountability framework. He also was instrumental in creating the Lil’wat Land and Resources Department to document and defend Lil’wat land interests. As well, he revised the MCB employee policy and negotiated a new, fair salary grid.
Asked if he thinks the social environment of Mt. Currie has evolved positively during his tenure, he offers a cautious, "I think so.
"There are still a lot of issues. I talk very proudly about the successes, but temper that with the fact there is so much work to do. But when I talk to community members, I reference the question: ‘Are things better than five years ago, 10 years ago?’ People say things are so much better."
A respected member of both the Mt. Currie and Pemberton communities, Tetreault’s role in the region’s daily political life will be missed by his colleagues.
"Sheldon is a thoughtful and intelligent, creative person," said Village of Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy.
Sturdy, who worked with Tetreault in both the municipal arena and as colleagues in the Leadership Sea-to-Sky program, also praised the administrator for his calm demeanour.
"He brought an awful lot to the organization. I’m sorry to see him go. But this new job sounds like a fantastic opportunity that will allow him to grow in the field he’s passionate about."
Tetreault will be part of the hiring committee to find his replacement.