It turned out, once Sameh Nashed got to Saskatchewan, he couldn’t easily leave.
The new chief administrative officer for the RM of Edenwold has had plenty of chances to see the world over his working life on three continents, but it was the open prairies that grabbed him by his soul.
“All of (my previous work in the province) allowed me to connect with Saskatchewan, the environment of Saskatchewan,” Nashed said. “First Nations communities as well, because I had to engage with First Nations businesses as well. I learned about Saskatchewan culture and it was a fantastic opportunity to explore another world I never thought I would ever see. Saskatchewan had become my home without me noticing it at first. So, I decided to move back.”
The Egyptian-born Nashed, 62, officially took over the municipality’s top job Feb. 1, a post that had been vacant since the retirement of Kim McIvor in mid-December.
“It looked like an opportunity where I could apply my experience over many industries to help this RM,” Nashed said. “I believe I’ve also seen the potential this RM has and can get to. Definitely I wanted to be a part of that potential success and that future.”
Nashed graduated with an engineering degree at Alexandria University and started working for Shell Egypt, managing aviation fuel projects at one of the largest airports in the Middle East. He later moved to work at an airport on the Sinai Peninsula which, combined with his earlier work, enabled him to learn both European and American standards of that industry.
Later he worked for PepsiCo, managing work first in eastern Africa and then along the southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea in northern Africa. Saskatchewan is not Nashed’s first experience with cold weather however. That came in Finland, where he worked briefly.
“That was fantastic,” Nashed said. “I was happy to see the snow, because where I grew up, we only saw snow in Christmas movies. But after two weeks, it was not pleasant.”
It couldn’t have been too much of a deterrent however. Nashed soon took out immigration papers for both Canada and the United States and settled on Canada roughly 30 years ago, appreciating the role Canada had played as world peacekeepers. He made his first Canadian home in Montreal, a city whose European vibe enabled a smooth transition to North American life, and has been in Canada ever since.
While Nashed has worked in the IT and software industries, with clients in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec, he said that line of work also left him waking up on some Monday mornings, driving to the airport and not knowing where he was going until his boarding pass was printed.
“Sometimes, it was Calgary, other times Quebec City,” Nashed said. “Someone was managing my life very well. At a certain point, I gave up the executive life and all of the politics. I thought it would be nice for me to be able to offer my expertise as a consultant. You don’t deal with HR problems or political issues.”
That brought him to Saskatchewan again in 2010, this time to work with SaskPower. There he says he managed $800 million worth of projects, including the $330 million I1K transmission line from Island Falls to Key Lake, which fed power to a variety of mining projects in northern Saskatchewan. In all Nashed said the project involved coordination between 65 different large companies and several First Nations communities, adding to the logistical complexity.
“They had aging infrastructure which affected the ability to serve industry in Saskatchewan,” Nashed said. “They brought me in as a project management expert, and from there we built a process and a framework where we could train locals so we could have a strong team from SaskPower that can manage projects with international standards at the same time. SaskPower is very proud to have implemented it because it’s one of the two most difficult projects ever attempted in North America.”
Nashed joins the RM of Edenwold at a challenging time with issues such as the Town of White City’s annexation proposal and a problematic wastewater treatment plant (shared with White City) among those on the front burner.
“We have good lawyers to deal with that issue,” Nashed said of the annexation file. “The utmost attention, and why we are here is to look after the welfare of our citizens. It’s not the top priority to win a fight. It’s the top priority to continue serving the community in the best way we can. I shared the same message with (White City town manager Ken Kolb). I’m looking forward for opportunities for collaboration no matter what the outcome is for (the annexation file).
“We need to keep things running smoothly and collaboration is the key. … The idea here is not to fight over territory, but more to find ways to work together and leverage services. That’s why we are here, not to build empires. We are in these jobs to serve. That’s what we have to keep in mind. That’s not weakness or naiveté. It’s setting the priorities where they should be, where the citizens that pay our salaries receive what they deserve and more.”
That’s why Nashed views resolving issues with the shared wastewater treatment plant as his top priority.
“I used to design water treatment plants and industrial treatment plants,” Nashed said. “I’m an engineer. I offered my help, if I can be of service. There is a board in charge, and I’d like to work with my counterpart in White City on this to work with the board and close that matter, because in my opinion, every day that isn’t resolved, you are wasting money. Nobody wants to see that drain on resources and delay.”
Keith Borkowsky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Quad Town Forum