Arviat – Arviat’s Kono Tattuinee was elected to his fourth term as president of the Arctic Co-operatives Limited board of directors during the company’s annual general meeting (AGM) earlier this month.

The Arctic Co-op follows the model the Federated Co-op employs in the west, with the president’s position being up for re-election every year at the AGM.

Tattuinee said it’s been a challenge to fill the shoes of previous longtime Co-op president Bill Lyall.

He said he’s tried his hardest to reach that lofty goal during the past three years and will continue to work as hard as he can during his fourth term.

“The first few years as president were a real learning curve for me,” Tattuinee said.

“There’s seven of us on the board and, since we got to know each other really well, I’m really comfortable speaking with them.

“We meet in Winnipeg quarterly as a board and sometimes we try to go to Iqaluit or Yellowknife for the February meetings in hopes of hitting it right with government sessions so we can, maybe, rub elbows a little bit with the real big wigs who make all the policies in the two territories.

“My first year as president was very exciting to be following Bill Lyall and the legacy he created as president for so many years and the knowledge and experience he gained during all those years – and how he managed to get exposure for the Co-op.”

Tattuinee said he’s tried his best to emulate parts of Lyall’s leadership and feels he’s created a good working relationship with the board.

He said he also has a good rapport with the Co-op’s new chief executive officer.

“There was a grand opening of a new Co-op in Old Crow which I was fortunate enough to be able to attend,” Tattuinee said.

“The excitement of the people there, to have their own member Co-op opened, was a highlight for me so far as the president.

“I’ve always promoted the Co-op wherever I go and I always try to walk the walk as well as talking the talk.”

Tattuinee said the board always likes to work with the 32 member Co-ops when initiating a number of policies and procedures.

He said being the base office, they like to receive input and have good co-operation among the member Co-ops in resolving any problems or challenges the Co-op as a whole may face.

“For example, we do have issues with some of the outstanding accounts receivable in our Co-ops that have caused problems for us.

“We keep trying new ways of creating a policy that will help the Co-ops be able to stand on their own a little more, and be more independent in their dealings.

“The Co-op base office acts as support to the member Co-ops to help them survive and grow amid the fierce competition from the other stores – mainly the Northwest Co. – that we all face today.

“We like for people to understand that if they’re going to support the Co-ops, we have policies and guidelines that can help the various member Co-ops to become more independent, because we have not only retail, but also hotels and fuel contracts.”

Tattuinee said being fuel contract distributors, without owning any of the fuel, is something Co-ops do that their competitors don’t.

He said the Co-op chain owns and operates 20-plus hotels in Nunavut and the NWT, and the top priority of the base office is to help the other member Co-ops prosper.

“I’m trying to help promote the Co-ops and make the people better educated as to what it means to be a member-owner. The bottom line is: when people support the Co-op, there’s a return in the end.

“We’d like for every Co-op to have patronage and dividends, but it just doesn’t happen that way.

“The Co-ops themselves have to stand on their own two feet without having as much support from Arctic Co-operatives, because we’d like to see some of them thrive with their own leadership.

“It’s a constant for the company and myself as leader to try and better the lives of the people around us, and, of course, address community concerns, including those over the environment that are so important to people in the North, so, these are some of the things we hold dear to our heart and we want to keep promoting these values as we move forward.”