City councillor Niels Konge is the new deputy mayor of Yellowknife, taking over from Shauna Morgan, who had held the role since shortly after the 2018 election.
Konge was handed the role by fellow councillors at an in-camera meeting on Monday. Morgan, who was appointed deputy mayor in November 2018, said it made sense for the post to rotate between councillors.
Construction company owner Konge, who ran unsuccessfully for the role of Yellowknife Centre MLA last October, said becoming the deputy mayor excited him after seven years as a councillor.
Asked if serving as Mayor Rebecca Alty’s deputy formed a stepping stone to grander political ambitions, he replied jokingly: “Most days, I don’t know what I’m doing in the next day … No, I mean, it was just to try something new.”
Konge had indicated his interest during the public portion of Monday’s committee meeting at City Hall, while Morgan told colleagues she was happy to continue in the role.
Councillors then closed the meeting to the public in order to debate the appointment. Later that evening, councillors voted unanimously to support a motion to appoint Konge.
The deputy mayor is expected to stand in for Mayor Alty on occasions when she is not present – at community events, grand openings and the like – and perform the day-to-day work of the mayor at City Hall when Alty takes vacation.
The role is also about “trying to have a sense of the bigger picture of the issues you’re trying to deal with, and how to get through some of the confusion,” Morgan said.
Konge said he has a lot of respect for Alty – serving her first term as mayor – who he first met when the two were both running for council in 2012. He looks forward to working closely with her as deputy mayor.
“She is very, very smart. Very hardworking. Her perspective on things is often different from mine, but she is a great listener. She can often listen to what I’m saying and kind-of put it in words that other people understand,” he said.
The deputy mayor receives a salary bump from regular councillors, earning $1,000 more per year than the regular councillor’s pay of $13,333. They also receive an additional $500 in the form of a tax-free allowance.
The position has changed in recent years following amendments to council’s voting process. Previously, council rules were interpreted to mean the mayor had no official vote unless they passed the chair to the deputy – which would allow the mayor to vote, yet deprive the deputy mayor of a vote.
This interpretation of council rules prompted former councillor Adrian Bell to resign his post as deputy mayor in the summer of 2018, amid in-camera discussion of the City of Yellowknife’s inquiry into harassment allegations dating back to 2014.
The rules have since changed, meaning both Konge and Alty can vote on issues before council.