When Scotty Edgerton started working with the Town of Hay River a year ago, his role was to be the “fixer.”
“They told me just make this place operate again,” he recalled. “Everybody told me that.”
And as recalled by Edgerton – who retired on Sept. 23 as interim senior administrative officer (SAO) – the town was in dire need of fixing.
“You want an honest answer?” he replied when asked how bad things were. “It was ready to be third party. It wasn’t about they didn’t have money in the bank, but they had no knowledge of what’s going on in the company. In other words, we weren’t reporting properly. They weren’t getting their reports out, minutes out, all the things that make a government operation work. I’m serious.”
Edgerton said the town was “very close” to having third-party management imposed by the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA).
That has never happened to Hay River.
Edgerton doesn’t blame the problems he found when he started work in early October of last year on any one person.
“I think it was because of turnover. They had too many rotations,” he said. “I’m a businessperson. They weren’t hiring businesspeople. They were hiring people that did well in HR, human resources and that kind of stuff. You don’t need that. You need businesspeople.”
Plus, he said the town lost some good people because of last year’s strike by municipal workers.
Edgerton pointed out some of the problems go back 10 years.
The 75-year-old said he has a reputation of going to troubled municipalities and helping to make them work.
“There’s still stuff to go on but everything is making money now,” he said of the town’s operations. “I shouldn’t bang on this one but the cemetery is making money. Everything is making money, including the landfill, but it’s just marginal right now.”
Edgerton said the town also raised fees for the ambulance service.
And it is in the process of installing new water meters to correct a system that allowed water bills go unpaid for a year or two.
However, Edgerton doesn’t claim personal credit for turning the town around. Instead, he said it was a team effort between administration and town council.
“What they’ve asked me to do I think that I’ve done,” he said. “I think as a team, not just me but as a team we’ve done everything that was asked.”
Edgerton has nothing but praise for Mayor Brad Mapes and council.
“There are good people on that council,” he said. “They’re very aggressive. I’m proud as hell of them.”
Council decided it was going to make the town run properly, he said. “I never wrote so many bylaws in my life. I think I wrote 20 bylaws. Every week we had a new bylaw. What we did is we, as a team, formed it into what it is now, and it’s working.”
Edgerton defends council.
“Don’t be knocking them,” he said. “They’re doing a hell of a job. They are. Within one year, they got everything back in order. People will say, ‘Yeah, but they were there before.’ Yeah, but they weren’t in management before.”
Mapes said Edgerton did a “heck of a good job” in his time as interim SAO.
“We took on Scotty for a few months and it ended up being almost a year,” said Mapes. “And Scotty has done a fabulous job to get everything going back in order.”
The mayor said Edgerton’s efforts make it good for his successor – Gloria Murdock-Smith, who assumed the role of SAO on Sept. 12 – because she is not entering a big mess.
“Most of the stuff is pretty solid or coming close to it,” said the mayor.
Edgerton, who is originally from Saskatoon, has worked in the North for many years, including in Enterprise, K’atlodeeche First Nation, Fort Resolution and Taloyoak, Nunavut.
“I prefer the North. I feel comfortable working in the aboriginal world,” he said. “I seemed to fit in there. I don’t know why.”
Edgerton said he will again try retirement but hasn’t been very successful staying away from work in the past when a community makes offers for his services.
However, this time he has health concerns and he plans to enjoy himself with some recreational activities.
“I’m going to stay in Hay River,” Edgerton said. “I like the North. I really do.”