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Sheila Bassi-Kellett: Yellowknife’s culture shines under the Northern Lights

Sheila Bassi-Kellett may have grown up in Toronto, but her passion for local government was forged during 33 years of living in northern Canada, including nearly three years now as the City Administrator for the City of Yellowknife.

Bassi-Kellett shared her thoughts on why the municipal sector is the most nimble and accessible order of government during a conversation with Municipal World CEO Susan Gardner in Quebec City.

“I think every municipality, every municipal leader, every mayor, every councillor, every CAO, knows the reality is you are dealing with people complaining about parking and you are also dealing with the big, massive issues that drive the well-being of your community,” she said. “I think that dichotomy is endlessly fascinating and always makes for very interesting work. It doesn’t matter if you are Sachs Harbour, population 100 in the Northwest Territories, or you are the City of Toronto. Sometimes we are dealing with the same balancing act, dealing with the needs and aspirations of our residents.”

Capital of a Vibrant Northern Community

Yellowknife is the capital city of the Northwest Territories with a population of about 22,000 people. Bassi-Kellett acknowledges that to some people, that may sound like a small town. However, as it is also a capital city, it has a strong cultural diversity that stems from vibrant East Indian and Filipino communities living and working alongside the Indigenous community.

In fact, as Bassi-Kellett explains in the video, Yellowknife’s connection to the Yellowknives Dene First Nation (YKDFN) is something that brings her a great sense of pride.

In her time as City Administrator, Bassi-Kellett explains she has spent much of her time working on not only economic development, but political relationships and social issues as well. These things are, she said, “the reality of municipal government in the age that we live in.”

Shining under the Northern Lights

However, tourism is another big part of life in Yellowknife – particularly when it comes to the spectacle that is the Northern Lights.

As stunning as the aurora borealis might be, however, Bassi-Kellett said every effort has to be made to prepare for bad weather, too.

“We are really working to make sure we can capitalize on this great gift we have of having tourists coming and looking for the beauty that is the north,” she said. “The reality is that sometimes on a cloudy night you might not see the aurora. And so, we want to make sure everything else they experience in Yellowknife makes for a memorable experience.”  MW

✯ Municipal World Insider and Executive Members: You might also be interested in Robert Shipley’s article: Let’s Make Turtle Island Great Again. Note that you can now access the complete collection of past articles (and more) from your membership dashboard.

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