In an "unusual" move, the Northwest Territories' main regulatory board has hired its former chair as its new executive director, without the job being put out to competition.

The Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board, which is responsible for issuing water licences and land use permits to mining companies operating in the Mackenzie Valley, was looking for a new executive director after Zabey Nevitt gave notice in late September that he was resigning after six years in the role.

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The chairs of the other three N.W.T. land and water boards hired Willard Hagen as executive director of the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board at a closed meeting in late October. (CBC)

Shortly after, Willard Hagen approached the chairs of the Gwich'in, Sahtu and Wek'eezhii Land and Water Boards and offered to step down as chair of the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board to become the new executive director.

"It's a little bit unusual," says Larry Wallace, chair of the Sahtu Land and Water Board.

"But in this case here we've got somebody who was involved in day-to-day operations for a number of years — you know, fully qualified to step into that position."

The chairs of the other three N.W.T. land and water boards hired Hagen as executive director at a closed meeting in late October.

Wallace says no one else expressed interest in the job and it was not advertised or posted internally.

"We needed somebody that was qualified, that had experience. The existing chair had a lot of experience." he said.

"I assume he gave it a fair amount of thought before he decided to step down into that position."

As executive director, Hagen will be earning about the same salary as he did as chair, roughly $140,000 a year, but the new job has more security than the chair, which is appointed by the federal government.

Hagen was appointed chair in 2007 by then-Aboriginal Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl and Hagen's term was due to expire in less than a year. Hagen had publicly voiced strong support for former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and there was no guarantee the new Liberal government would have renewed Hagen's appointment.

Public perception

Karl Salgo, with the Institute for Governance, says public organizations are typically concerned about public perception in their hiring practices.

"In the public sector, you're often concerned about process as a means to providing assurance to people that everything has been done for the most appropriate reasons in the most appropriate way."

The chair of the Wek'eezhii Land and Water Board, Violet Camsell-Blondin, has been hired as acting chair of the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board.