By Jennifer Hoegg
Chief Jeannette Peterson has her sights set on a big change for her second term.
After being re-elected leader of the Annapolis Valley First Nation on Dec. 4, she wants to continue her efforts to get a new highway exit onto the Cambridge reserve.
“The biggest (goal) is going to be a big process: putting an overpass on the 101 to get more industry started,” Peterson said, following her Dec. 10 swearing in.
She added that an exit into the community at the other end of Ratchford Road would have another important purpose: safety.
“In an emergency crisis, we only have one road in,” Peterson said.
“I hope to establish a good working relationship with the new government.”
She noted discussions were going well with the previous government.
Peterson won the position over Brian Toney and Lawrence Toney with 67 of 158 votes cast. In her first campaign for chief in 2011, Peterson ran on a platform of accountability and transparency, which she said are still her priorities, but economic development has now moved into the top spot.
“My platform was way different than last time,” she said of the recent election. “In two years as chief, I got to know more about economic development and infrastructure. My platform is really to get the land developed, to get a secondary road in, the infrastructure.”
In February 2012, Peterson asked band members to set her salary, which they pegged at $60,000, down approximately $90,000 from the previous chief. She won’t be asking for more this term, she said.
“I haven’t got a raise and I don’t want a raise. I’m quite comfortable with what I have,” Peterson said.
“Our books are always open to the band members. I’m just happy the Annapolis Valley first nations band member re-elected me based on my trust and my experience and what I have done the past two years.”
Also elected were Natasya Kennedy, for her second term in a row, and Gerald Toney Jr., who has served as a councillor in the past.
Kennedy is charged with education for the band and Toney works with fisheries. Ten other candidates ran for the positions, which pay approximately $40,000 annually, Kennedy said.
Kennedy, a teacher, helped establish a learning centre for the band and hopes to expand it. She said the band has a strong focus on education – both for children and for ongoing adult learning.
“Our language is a big thing,” she said. “We only have one speaking elder here who is fluent in Mi’kmaq, so we’re hoping to start language classes.”
Rebuilding the band’s fisheries was an achievement of their first term, Kennedy and Peterson said. The band has a new boat, fishing out of Digby, which employs four people.
“It’s doing great. We finally have revenues coming in,” Peterson said. “Hopefully next year, we’ll have another boat and be able to hire more people.”
With only 160 of the band’s 271 members living on the reserve, Annapolis Valley First Nation has members as far afield as Ontario and Europe, and the community has many plans for development in education, treaty rights, industry and infrastructure development.
“We’re going to be busy,” Peterson said.
After this term, which runs for two years beginning Dec. 21, chief and councillors’ terms will be for a four year period, Peterson said, due to amendments to the Indian Act.