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Ackerman steps out of public life

Former mayor enters new career in First Nations economic development
Lori Ackerman with the newest arrival to her family, 17-month-old Max, on her lap

After nearly two decades in the public eye, Lori Ackerman is "shifting gears" as she likes to put it.

The former Fort St. John mayor and councillor has begun a new role of CEO with a newly-formed company, Blueberry River Resources.

“I was raised by parents who said that what you get from your community is what to give to your community, and not one iota more,” said Ackerman.

“I have always been a part of the communities that I’ve lived in and try to be a positive participant. My involvement grew over the years and I got involved in boards, learned more about governance, and wanted to carry on in that vein.”

Born in Swan River, Man., Ackerman has lived in all four western provinces either while growing up or as an adult, even trying her hand at living in the Lower Mainland.

“Was in White Rock for about a year. Didn’t like the rain or the traffic,” she admitted.

Besides her 17 years on city council, Ackerman was also involved in the infancy stages of Fort St. John’s Salvation Army, hired on as a business administrator and, later, with the family services component.

“It was then I was told we needed a homeless shelter and our food bank needed to expand. The soup kitchen, at that time, was one day a week. So, we expanded that to six days a week.”

But it was while explaining her time with the organization that one of her hidden talents came to the forefront – the ability to dress a moose.

“The Salvation Army officers [back then] were from Toronto, so very little experience in rural communities. I opened up the freezer and there was one pound of hamburger. You can’t run a food bank with no product.”

Ackerman contacted local conservation officers to see what happened to animals that are put down in situations like being hit by a vehicle.

“We have people who need or prefer wild meat and we distribute it,” she was told.

“I know that’s not part of your job description, so why don’t you give it to me and I’ll distribute it," Ackerman responded.

The opportunity, as it turned out, presented itself when a bull moose was hit on the North Taylor Hill.

“It’s still good. We have to go put it down because it broke its shoulder,” came the phone call.

Her next call was to her son – “you’re not going to go to school today…we need to go dress a moose.  And, this one officer from Toronto, I thought he was going to pass out. I don’t think he thought I was going to do this.”

Ackerman did, and the officer has since moved on.

She admitted, however, she’s cut back on the number of moose she dresses these days.

“I probably haven’t done anything like that in 25 years,” she laughed. “It’s a lot of work and kudos to those who can do it.”

A retired hunter, Ackerman is also a cross-stitcher and crocheter, and has a selection of beautifully matted and framed pictures, a hobby she picked up while trying to quit smoking. It’s worked so far.

Other interests, she said, include camping, cooking, reading, and gardening.

“I’m actually hoping that I’m going to be able to read some fiction again because I haven’t been able to do a lot of reading, maybe on an airplane sometimes when I don’t have a report to read,” Ackerman acknowledged.

“Gardening, too, is big for Andy and I. I’ve started canning, especially with the greenhouse and produce that came from the garden this year.”

Ackerman also recently became a new mom, as well. Max, a 17-month-old bundle of energy and Shitzu-Yorky cross, is the latest addition to the family.

As she begins a new chapter away from municipal politics, it will likely find her in very familiar circles both in the community and on a political level.

“What’s exciting to me is that it’s really focused on creating revenue and economic opportunities for First Nations. The one thing that has been really significant in my learnings of the past few years, and it was when we started working with municipalities in Peru, is seeing the Indigenous people there and the economic opportunities they were missing out on. I thought, whoa Lori, you better look in your own backyard.”

For Ackerman, her new role addresses that.

“We have a lot of work in front of us to get First Nations on an economic path that will allow them to work on reconciliation. For me, the focus is reconciliation and restoration of the land.”

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