By contributor Alison Cheung

VIU professor Tracy Samra has been appointed as Nanaimo’s Interim City Manager. She is the first woman and Aboriginal person to hold the position; as such, she hopes to bring a fresh new perspective to the role.

“I’m hoping to use a collaborative approach to problem solve,” Samra said. “Hierarchy is not how I want to do it.” Samra believes that everybody should be invited. Everybody “has a role to play and can be a leader.” By meeting with staff working throughout Nanaimo and “getting to see what others do,” Samra hopes it will allow her to really take those perspectives into account. Her goal is to meet with every employee group in the city.

Samra was born in Saddle Lake Cree Nation Treaty 6 in Alberta, and grew up in Victoria. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of British Columbia, has a Masters of Law from the University of Ottawa, and a Bachelors in Law from the University of Victoria. In addition, Samra spent a year in New Zealand doing Indigenous studies. She took a particular interest in learning about the Maori people, the Indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand.

“I loved it. It was great to learn about other Indigenous cultures,” she says. Despite being a strong voice for First Nations, however, Samra emphasizes that she is “a fan of multiculturalism and diversity for everybody, not only Indigenous peoples.”
She has 19 years of experience working in the federal, provincial, and Aboriginal public sectors in the areas of governance and policy development as a senior administrator, consultant, and lawyer. She has worked with Indigenous communities throughout Canada, including provinces such as Manitoba, the North West Territories, and BC.

Samra has a “to-do list,” and it is her job to coordinate staff to accomplish those things and make sure everything is running smoothly. “I’m a facilitator,” she said. During this interim period, Samra hopes her “direct and frank approach to leadership” will create a positive and transparent work environment. She is also a strong believer in open door policy, and says, “Anyone can give me a call at any time — even the public can.” She is eager to hear from all different local groups.

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Samra’s top priorities are providing city council with the information they need to govern effectively in an open and transparent manner, and supporting ongoing relations between the city and Snuneymuxw, the Nanaimo local First Nations.

In addition to this full-time job, Samra continues to teach Natural Resources Management and Indigenous Rights at VIU. Given her connection to VIU, she hopes to aid students to voice their concerns to council by holding an “E-town Hall” on campus. “E-town Hall” is a Shaw broadcasted program “where people can send questions through Facebook and Twitter, and council will answer through social media,” she said. It is a way for students to watch the mayor and council in action on campus.

Samra’s appointment as City Manager commenced Thursday, November 19 for a period of six months. Her appointment may be renewed each month thereafter until the process of filling the permanent City Manager role is completed.

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