Like each of the Yukon’s small towns, Teslin demonstrates an individual distinctiveness.
Its municipal land area is small, with First Nations and non-First Nations people living closely together. As a result of this proximity, the village and the Teslin Tlingit Council (TTC) have worked many things out. They have the only example in the territory of a “joint community development plan” and a joint recreation fund.
The News spoke with Mayor Gord Curran on October 26. Curran is one of the two mayors who were acclaimed in last weeks’ municipal elections in the territory.
“Our number one priority is maintaining and growing our relationship with the Teslin Tlingit Council. That is a long-standing relationship, and it’s probably one of the deepest in the Yukon,” Curran explains.
“We do community planning together. And so that’s a huge priority for our council, is to communicate on that path. It has served us well with planning, emergencies over the past year, and all kinds of issues. So, that’s a huge one for us.”
Curran knows that good relations will bode them well as both the municipality and TTC prepare for the $85-million bridge replacement project over Nisutlin Bay, starting this coming summer.
“TTC has a lot of influence on that project, but we’ll be working with them in terms of community. It’s basically maximizing the benefit and minimizing the social impact.”
Another internal priority for Curran is municipal boundary expansion.
Curran is concerned about people who live in Teslin, but are unable to participate on town council or even vote.
“We’ve been trying to expand our boundary here. Right now, we service outside of our boundary to people who are effectively Teslinites,” he said.
Other projects underway in the community include completing the new fire hall building and some trail development. Curran believes it was fortuitous that, before the pandemic, the council had prioritized recreation and developed a trail network plan, so now the council can pick off parts of it to develop as they want.
On the housing front, Curran says, “We’ve been lucky. We’ve had lot development in the past decade, but all the lots that were developed, close to 40 of them, were developed as part of a YG — Teslin Tlingit Council partnership, on part settlement land, part YG land; and within the municipal boundary.”
The lots are all sold now, so the new council will be looking forward to figure out the next steps to deal with the community’s steady growth. Council will also be looking forward on how to best link lot development with sewer and water infrastructure planning.
“It will take a lot of years to conceptualize and then develop and then get the funding and build. This council is going to start down that road. We may not actually build anything, but it’s a farsighted look.”
For hindsight, the regionalization of solid waste has been on the agenda since 2012.
Curran also spoke in his role as president of the Association of Yukon Communities (AYC). The organization calculated that this past municipal election saw a 60 per cent turnover for elected officials. But within this number, AYC also found that all of the mayors elected or acclaimed in this last election have previous council experience.
AYC will be conducting a workshop for new officials on Nov. 18, 19 and 20, followed by an AYC meeting.
Curran’s two-year term as president of the Association of Yukon Communities will end in May 2022. AYC will be appointing four executive directors on an interim basis to May 2022 to fill new vacancies, given the recent election results.
Curran says it’s “one of those things, balancing for when you lose some experience, and gain some new perspectives.”
Lawrie Crawford, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Yukon News