The Combined Councils of Labrador have a new president. Nick McGrath took over the top job with the CCL's 38th Annual General Meeting, which was hosted by Labrador West from Feb. 3-6 (Wed-Sat).
McGrath attended the AGM as the VP for Labrador West and was not at all vying for the top job when he registered.
Encouraged by peers
"To be quite honest with you, I wasn't considering the position of president of the Combined Councils at all," he said. "Most definitely I intended to stay on [the executive] because I enjoyed it and found it to be a very challenging board to be on. But right up until Friday, I hadn't even considered going for president. Then I was encouraged by some delegates at the convention who'd heard me speak in the past and who were cognizant that I had no problem getting a message out publicly. It is a wonderful feeling when your colleagues in municipal politics and business come to you and say they feel you could be the articulate voice to bring the issues forward."
Though it came as a bit of a surprise that [former] president Jim Farrell was not running for another term, McGrath said the decision to step up to the plate wasn't a difficult one to make.
Support from Lab. City council
"First I needed to get the support of my council before I made a decision and I spoke with Mayor [Janice] Barnes and she was elated," McGrath explained his decision. "It was very important to me to have that support and she assured me the Labrador City council would be behind me 100 percent. But I was very excited that this challenge was before me and I look forward serving with such a fine team of executives."
Mayor Janice Barnes was quick to express her joy on McGrath's appointment and says she has every confidence that his leadership will bring great progress to Labrador.
"When Nick was elected to council last September, he demonstrated a keen interest in the CCL and I thought he could represent this area well as our VP because he is certainly a very knowledgeable person and knows the issues" the Labrador City Mayor commented. "There were many highlights at the CCL's AGM this year and, definitely, one in particular was the appointment of Nick McGrath as president. I think he will do a fantastic job.
Mayor Barnes added that as early as a few days into the new post, he has already made numerous contacts with government. She predicts him to be a very vocal leader and says the newly elected executive as a whole, has a great mixture of both seasoned and new member.
Knowledge from experience
Though his tenure with the CCL thus far is not lengthy, McGrath has quite a background in public issues and when it comes to positions of leadership, he has more than his fair share of experience to draw on. He has served as president of Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador (HNL) as well as the provincial tourism association.
"No this isn't the first time I've been in a position where I am the spokesperson for a large organization-HNL and the Tourism Association for instance represents a large sector. And, I am in enough organizations just in the local region that I understand a lot of the issues."
McGrath is quick to say though, he isn't an expert on all the issues and he is quite eager to learn from the knowledge within the executive, He said he feels strongly, as the chair, he needs to understand the complexity of all issues from all regions of Labrador.
"For example with me living in Labrador West for the last 31 years, the three main focuses for me would be mining, economic development and tourism," he explained. "They were the three pertinent issues that I gained expertise on through my experiences in Labrador West. But, I have no background, say, in the fishery because the fishery is not a part of the issues in Labrador West. One thing I have though is that strong team behind me-like Alton Rumbolt who lives and breathes the fishery. His expertise is something I would draw upon to make sure I get the right message out there when I speak publicly."
Man with a plan
McGrath said he takes on the position knowing full well the responsibilities are huge but he has enough self-confidence to feel he can be a really good liaison between all levels of government.
He wants to work with the CCL and its executive director to put together a sound strategic plan that will work well with the province's Northern Strategic Plan.
McGrath says he wants to help revitalize the CCL and work on the issues facing Labrador communities and the AGM held in Labrador West last week allowed for many of these issues to be brought to the table and discussed.
"There was a message that the air ambulance service needed to be put to forefront and all of Labrador agrees with that," McGrath outlined some of the prevalent issues discussed. "I know that our council in Lab. City has been fighting for a third aircraft to be added to the fleet and we certainly feel that Labrador West is the appropriate for that. As a town councillor for the Town of Labrador City, as president of the CCL, I think it's important now to bring that message forward."
McGrath said he was happy a study will be done around the air ambulance service and says whatever is recommended from that, the CCL will be supporting it; as that was the resolution.
"Where we as a council want to focus now is on the small issues at home; the little things that matter that make the lifestyle of your town comfortable," McGrath said of the matters discussed at the AGM that he is anxious to address. "Some of the discussions, for example, centred around issues like water and sewage, municipal operating grants, air travel subsidies, transportation in smaller communities on the coast. There are things like these that we in the larger centres take for granted but they are very important. What I would like the CCL to do is -and I want this to be a part of my mandate-to put timelines on any action plans we bring forward from this strategic plan. When there are timelines on your action plan, then it's a work in progress."
McGrath said he is looking forward to what the next two years will bring; to what he can add to the CCL and he is anxious to learn what he can from his executive team.
"After the two-year term, I will see where we are and if I have the confidence of the people, I would certainly continue on as president."
President: Nick McGrath
VP Straits: Nat Moore
VP South Coast: Alton Rumbolt
VP Central: Stan Oliver
VP Western: Jim Farrell
Executive Director: Janice O'Neil