by Phil Ambroziak
Li’l Bob has a big job ahead of him.
Robert Merasty, whose friends refer to him as Li’l Bob, is the new chief at Flying Dust First Nation following the band’s Dec. 6 election. Merasty defeated incumbent chief Jim Norman by 68 votes.
“I am very humbled and honoured to have earned the respect of band members and to have them place their trust in me,” Merasty said.
A total of 314 voters made their way to the polls on Election Day, with 191 choosing Merasty’s name on the ballot opposed to the 123 votes garnered by Norman. The election also resulted in incumbent councillors Marie Gladue, Percy Derocher and Jeremy Norman being returned to office, as well as newcomer Marie McCallum earning a seat at the council table. Incumbent Basil Bear was not successful in his re-election bid.
“I want to pay accolades to the former chief and council, as well as to all the candidates who ran,” Merasty said. “I’m all about building community and everyone who put their names out there for this election did so because they want to help their community and because they care about their community. I hope they stay involved in some way or another. There is no shame in not being elected – everyone did themselves proud.”
The owner of his own consulting company since 2005, Merasty originally moved away from Flying Dust in 1990 to pursue post-secondary education. He has lived with his family in Saskatoon since 1996, but now plans to sell his house and return home.
“I grew up in Meadow Lake, graduated from Carpenter High School and even played hockey for the Meadow Lake Stampeders,” he said. “Everyone knows me.”
Merasty went on to say one of the big issues he plans to focus on as chief is making Flying Dust First Nation more self-sufficient and to allow it to grow economically.
“We need to be more creative and smarter when it comes to building the community,” he said. “A lot of the work I have done in the past has been about building strategic relationships. The City of Meadow Lake, the surrounding RMs and Flying Dust should be growing together. There is an opportunity here for us to work together and for all of us to benefit.”
“Those who were successful (for council positions) are all experienced,” noted returning officer Gordon Alger. “There’s something for everyone – Percy is a former chief, then you have the two ladies and Jeremy represents the youth.”
Although he was unsuccessful in his council bid, Leon Matchee is confident the new chief and council will bring good things to the table for Flying Dust members.
“I look forward to what they will do for us and am happy with the way things turned out,” he said.