Former Taylor mayor and current mayor of the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality (NRRM), Rob Fraser says he’s been enjoying reconnecting with the community he grew up in.
While he’ll always love the Peace and the character of the people who live there, Fraser says there's a different level of respect found in Fort Nelson and beyond - rooted in a sense that everyone knows everyone.
“The people in the Peace are good too, but these are the people I grew up with - there’s just a different feel for me, having grown up here,” said Fraser.
“It’s a small community, everybody knows each other and they really have to work together in order to make things better,” he added. “In the Peace, people are like that, but you can still be anonymous.”
It was felt most during a funeral procession for his brother-in-law, said Fraser. A McDonalds First Nations man from Toad River, Fraser noted his brother-in-law’s wishes were to be buried at Moose Lake.
“As we went up the highway there were road workers doing projects, and these guys knew we were coming. They stopped their equipment, got out, if they were on a cat, they got on a track, if they were on a truck, they got out on their running boards and took their hats off as we drove by,” said Fraser. “You just don’t get that kind of respect in very many places. Just to see that kind of respect, it gives you goosebumps.”
Entering the Bear Pit, Fraser says the community keeps him honest, noting he’s always ready to listen and learn from residents. Tourism and economic development remain important for the Northern Rockies.
“We’re working on a downtown revitalization, it’s in the early planning stages. Those are new dollars, people don’t have to stop and spend here, but if they do that’s a new dollar we wouldn’t have normally seen,” said Fraser. “Tourism is as important as the industries that have sort of been gone for a while.”
As for parallels between Taylor and Fort Nelson - not much is different, says Fraser, but he's learned a great deal from his time at the Peace River Regional District, which is similar in structure to the NRRM.
“I think the biggest change for me is probably the economic development. There’s things going on in the Northern Rockies, and the fact that the Northern Rockies is a regional district, that’s a little different,” he said. "It’s kind of a combination between a municipality and a regional district, and so I got on to that fairly well because of being mayor of Taylor and being on the Peace River Regional District.”
Having just completed an eight-year term in Taylor and undergoing open heart surgery last fall, Fraser says the move wasn’t just to serve the community, but also to enjoy the outdoors and a relaxed pace of life.
A trap-line was purchased by Fraser, where he’s been spending much of his time, renovating his cabin, and getting ready for next winter when not enjoying the occasional round of golf.
“That’s what I really came here for, I wanted to retire to the trap-line. You've probably heard I had a heart issue around election time and I spent this winter mostly recovering from that, but I did get out a little bit,” he said.
Tom Summer, Alaska Highway News, Local Journalism Initiative. Have a story idea or opinion? Email firstname.lastname@example.org