New Gwaii Trust manager excited to be here

  • May. 7, 2008 8:00 p.m.

The new managing administrator of the Gwaii Trust has years of experience in the credit union system, business management and real estate development and is excited about the opportunity to work in a new field. Errol Winter, who moved here from Vancouver Island and started the Gwaii Trust job April 14, said he had never heard of the Gwaii Trust until a headhunter contacted him about six weeks ago. At the time, he was working on contract for a company in Vancouver, and was intrigued by the job described. He did some research on the Gwaii Trust and the islands, and liked what he learned. He came up for an interview with directors that confirmed his good impression. Being offered the position “was an honour. I was really happy,” he said. “It’s never about the money, it’s about the job and the place.” Although he’s only been on the islands for a couple of weeks, Mr. Winter is already completely familiar with the history of the Gwaii Trust and is eager to learn what islanders think about it – what they like and what it could do better. So far he’s heard little complaint – not surprising about an organization that has handed out millions of dollars to non-profit groups, schools, local governments and individuals since it started up in 1994. “The trust is a strong presence here, part of the legacy of Haida Gwaii,” Mr. Winter said. “I’ve heard all kinds of things, very positive – that everyone appreciates what the trust does.” Sitting at his desk in the Gwaii Trust’s Old Massett office, located in a crumbling wooden building overlooking Masset Inlet, he brings up the high unemployment levels on the islands and wonders if the trust could play a role in creating more jobs here, or if this is better left to government. “I think unemployment is a big issue on the islands,” he said. “It’s something you can’t ignore.” The trust will grow and change as the islands do, Mr. Winter said, and he has arrived at a time when several changes are coming. First, of course, will be the effects of the new land use plan which will shift the islands economy towards culture and tourism and away from resource extraction. There’s growing concern about ecology, and the role the trust could play there. And there’s the new Misty Isles Economic Development Society, which will start to play a role in the economy in the near future. “We have a fairly clear mandate that was set out but there is room for growth as things change,” he said. “There’s some really big issues ahead.” The trust fund, now worth around $77-million, is in good shape despite recent market instability, he said. It has grown immensely in the past six or seven years, he said. It’s unrealistic to expect those kind of returns to continue, but the fund is managed conservatively and is doing fine. On Mr. Winter’s to-do list right now is improving the website so people can submit grant applications online, spending more time talking to islanders about the trust, visiting some of the projects the trust has funded, becoming familiar with the office and its procedures – and looking for a place to live. Mr. Winter has two daughters but they won’t be living here because they are attending private school. He said he’s looking forward to getting involved in community groups and spending time outdoors, and has always wanted to live in a smaller place where people get to know each other better than they can in the city. “My heart’s always been in a small community,” he said. “There’s so many opportunities for engagement here.”

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