Former mayor was the stuff of tragedy

DAWSON CITY Glen Everitt is barely through the front door when he says, “I don’t have much time for this.

DAWSON CITY

Glen Everitt is barely through the front door when he says, “I don’t have much time for this.”

He’s busy organizing a community dinner as part of his job with the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and only has a few hours until the Heritage Hall will be full of people expecting to be fed.

Two hours later, Everitt is still sitting by the woodstove, absorbed in a discussion about his political career, and shows no sign of leaving.

It’s been two years since the Yukon government removed Everitt from his position as mayor of Dawson City under allegations of financial mismanagement and abuse of public trust, but Everitt still loves to talk politics.

Everitt says his passion for politics began in the cornfields around Markham, Ontario, where he was born and raised.

When Everitt was 13, he was hired as a corn detasseler: a labour-intensive process usually performed by school-age workers that involves ripping the fuzzy tops off standing corn to prevent cross-pollination.

“It was almost like slave labour,” says Everitt.

He wrote a letter to the local paper calling on all detasselers to not show up for work until conditions improved. He signed his letter Henry the Lonesome Corn Cob to protect his identity but, to Everitt’s surprise, the paper also printed his real name.

Everitt’s boss responded by firing him and demanded he write the paper to recant his original letter. Everitt wrote the letter but not the one his former boss was hoping for.

“I wrote saying they refused to give me my last paycheque unless I said I was lying, which I refused to do,” says Everitt.

The second letter caught the attention of parents who, on the advice of Henry the Lonesome Corn Cob, started keeping their children at home, which crippled the corn industry.

“I’m talking thousands of students,” says Everitt. “Soon there was a dollar an hour added to the pay and they put water halfway through the fields for the workers.”

That same zeal to fight helped form Everitt’s platform when he first ran for Dawson City council in 1990. During that campaign, Everitt made only one promise and that was to “break the good old boys’ club.”

When he became mayor in 1996, he was in a position to follow up on that pledge and started by making the town’s tendering process transparent, Everitt says.

“Before, contracts were basically awarded at the whim of the mayor,” he says. “In fact, there were companies who never, ever bid for work but were handed contract after contract and made a lot of money in this community.”

He also saw more people approaching the city offices, he says. They wouldn’t before because of the hostile environment fostered by the former mayor, he adds.

“People started realizing that they actually could come and talk to the council without getting browbeat and thrown out the front door,” says Everitt. “People appreciated it.”

Byrun Shandler, a town councillor from 2000 until 2003, agrees that Everitt brought a common touch to the job.

“Glen was one of those remarkable leadership type people who had a way of putting together ideas and inspiring other people … a very caring individual with a big heart and the best of intentions,” says Shandler.

“But I think he has the tragic seed like in Shakespeare’s plays — that character flaw that blinds those great virtues to all else.”

The manifestation of that flaw included picking up an $1,800 bar tab with the town’s credit card and misappropriation of more than $100,000 of city funds, according to a forensic audit of the town’s books completed by Doddington Advisers Inc. after Everitt was removed.

Everitt’s wife, Deb, says the time the audit was published in 2005 was a low point for her husband.

“It was hard to watch and go through, but I had faith in him,” says Deb. “I knew he could pull through it.

“He was constantly being ridiculed and brought up in the press as a fraud and spending money like a drunken sailor mayor,” says Shandler, wincing as he describes the public persecution Everitt had to endure.

“Glen has paid a personal price. His family has paid a personal price.”

Everitt grows quiet as he remembers the release of the audit.

“I had self-pity for a while,” he says. “Depressed isn’t the right word.”

Everitt credits a quick return to the work force for helping him face the community.

“I think if I had buried myself, that it would have had a bigger impact. But the very next day I was working in a bar.”

“(I was) serving the very ministers that had removed me from office,” says Everitt, recalling some of the first patrons he had at his new job. “I was bringing them jugs of beer and they were sucking it back, paying for it with YTG credit cards.”

Everitt’s animated tone returns when he discusses the $100,000 the audit says he owes the town.

“As it stands now, I owe nothing. I owe zero,” Everitt says, his voice rising. “I said we have to go through everything. Show me what I owe. The files are there. Let’s take an honest look at it.”

With rumours that Everitt is under investigation by the RCMP for the improprieties outlined in the audit, his troubles might not be over.

But for now, he says he’s happy to be out of public life.

“For me, it was probably the best thing that ever happened. I feel way better,” says the 39-year-old Everitt. “I’m doing things with my kids and enjoying my grandchildren. I’m spending more time with them.”

Even so, Everitt admits that it might be hard not to let his name stand when the territorial government returns democracy to Dawson City.

“I’m hoping I don’t have to (but) I miss it. I really do miss it even though I’ll tell you I like having more time to spend with the kids … but, I’m not done here.”

But according to Shandler, he is.

“No way,” Shandler says, waving his arms. “Impossible. He can never have that job again. I think his political chances in the future are very, very limited.”

Jorn Meier, chamber of commerce president during part of Everitt’s reign as mayor, concurs with Shandler.

“I don’t think it would be a smart thing for him to run,” says Meier. “And I don’t think it would be a good thing for the town. I think Glen … should step back and give Dawson a chance to heal.”

Everitt pauses when he contemplates whether the town is ready for him as mayor again. 

“Whether the community is ready for me or not, I don’t know. You find that out when you run.

“The one thing that I won’t allow would be for this town to go back to the way it used to be that made me run in the first place. ”

Everitt finishes his coffee and moves toward the door.

“Two hours. You just got two hours of my life,” he says, slipping on his coat.

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