Six months into being elected back to the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake table, Lloyd Phillips (left with fellow MCK chiefs Mike Delisle and Lindsay Leborgne in July) decided to take the director of public safety post, which will begin next month. (Daniel J. Rowe, The Eastern Door)
Mohawk Council chief Lloyd Phillips is calling it a day after serving a total of 16 years on council. Phillips, who was recently re-elected this past summer, made his announcement earlier this week.
“It was a very difficult decision to make because I enjoy being on council and I enjoyed being an elected representative, and it’s been a passion of mine to be a representative of the community,” said the outgoing chief (Phillips did not serve at the table from 2015 to 2018).
While Phillips is stepping down from council he’s not leaving community service. He’ll be taking on a role familiar to him that will take him back to the field where he began his career – public safety. Phillips has accepted the position of director of public safety.
Kahnawake public safety commissioner Ron Skye will be retiring later this month and director of public safety Arnold Lazare is moving on to other interests. Council has decided to merge the two positions together, with Lazare working part time as a special projects advisor for public safety.
Phillips said it’s an ideal place for him at this point in his career, but it was not the easiest choice to make.
“I’ve been involved in public safety, public security issues my entire life. As a former firefighter and a current paramedic and working with police throughout the years, it’s another area I’m passionate about. It was like choosing between two loves,” he said.
Phillips said that ultimately he decided he could make the most use of his skills and make the best impact on the community by focusing on public safety.
His fellow council chief and friend Ross Montour is happy for Phillips.
“I would like to congratulate Lloyd on his appointment to his new position as the head of community safety and I think it’s a good fit,” he said.
Montour is surprised by Phillips leaving council in one way, but not in another, given his history of public service to the community.
“I’ve know Lloyd as a person at council for the past 20 years. He’s always had an involvement that has predated me knowing him here, in terms of his work with the Kahnawake Fire Brigade, the ambulance service and as a PK liaison with the Mohawk Council. So this is in his wheelhouse.”
Although Phillips won’t be at the council table any longer, he will continue to work as a community leader.
“The interface will still be there, he’ll still be interfacing with Mohawk Council in terms of the same things that he was working on as the portfolio chief,” said Montour.
Phillips held the community safety, external government relations, justice, and health files while chief.
“At one period when he was off council he was with the Assembly of First Nations Quebec -Labrador (AFNQL), where he was the liaison for police services, public security for them. So he has functioned on that level as well,” said Montour.
“His commitment has always been there.”
When Ron Skye advised council he was retiring last September he said he would stay on until the end of January to help with the transition. At the time Phillips said the thought of stepping into that job hadn’t crossed his mind. The position ended up being posted twice.
“As time went on there was no successful candidate the first time around and then when the opportunity came up again I thought maybe it’s a calling for me to voice my interest. After a process, I was offered the position,” said Phillips.
He said it’s a natural progression in his career that began in 1989 as a firefighter and emergency medical technician, adding he’s been involved with the fire brigade ever since, even when he wasn’t working directly in the field.
“Obviously I got involved with politics for many years but even in politics I was always involved in public safety and health areas. Bottom line is that I’m still involved in public service and I’m excited to take what’s there and build upon it for the safety and security of our entire community.”
Stepping away from politics is something he said he is going to miss. But the move for him is natural career decision and has no plans to return to council.
“I’m certainly going to miss the camaraderie around the table even though we do have our differences at times. Ultimately you’re at council table, you’re elected together and you’re there through thick and thin and that I’ll miss.”
Phillips also added that he wanted to thank the people of the community as well.
“I appreciate the support and will continue to serve the community in a different capacity.”
He will begin his new duties as director of public safety on February 4. A by-election will be held to fill his seat at the table, which has yet to be announced.
Phillips did offer a few word of advice for the next chief to come in.
“Council is a very tough role. You’re dealing with multiple things at once. If you’ve never been on council before, it’s a very, very steep learning curve … I wish them the best of luck!”
“In this current council I believe that we have the capacity to fill in the void while somebody new is brought in and inserted into the table.”