Following the Nov. 2013 municipal elections, Aki Tchitacov joined the team as Russell Copeman’s chief of staff. Tchitacov will be directing the employees in the mayor’s office and assisting the mayor in all his functions, while Martin Bergeron, Coalition Montréal’s defeated candidate in NDG, is Copeman’s political aide.
Aki Tchitacov, raised and schooled in NDG, started a long career in community work in 1989 as director of community development at the NDG YMCA with responsibility for local economic development.
He worked with community groups and the district’s diverse population, helping the poor and defending the rights of many vulnerable immigrant refugees. “At the time, the whole issue of local economic development was the growing trend,” he said during an interview shortly after his appointment.
While at the Y, Tchitacov was involved when community sectors from Côte-des-Neiges and NDG pulled together to establish the Corporation de développement économique communautaire (CDEC). He worked with Sharon Leslie, the NDG councillor under the Jean Doré administration, but he left in 1992, not long before the CDEC, now 20 years old, was created.
Community work developed into a passion for Tchitacov. In three years he became director of the NDG YMCA, and later director of the Pointe Saint-Charles YMCA, another Y very involved in community work.
In 1997, he was hired by Dans la rue, a mission founded by Father Emmett Johns in 1988, to open a day centre called Chez Pops. Their services included an alternative school for dropouts, offered in partnership with the Commission scolaire de Montréal (CSDM).
Tchitacov says he loved his job with the mission. “It was a very dynamic team, a team of professionals and very dedicated volunteers,” he said. They worked to fulfill Chez Pops’ vision of helping kids survive the street and get back on their feet. “Dans la rue was their last resort.”
As his mandate with the mission was ending in 2013, he acted as consultant on the board for the transition.
Aki Tchitakov has a master’s degree in public administration and public policy from Concordia University, but after 24 years in community work he was not expecting to end up in the world of municipal politics.
He knew the CDN-NDG mayor from Concordia University from the days when Russell Copeman was a student. Copeman used the services at the YMCA and they stayed in touch over the years.
“When he was elected, I congratulated him. We met to talk about what he would like to do as mayor. That’s when he asked me if I would be interested in being his chief of staff. We share the same vision and have the same approach,” said the official.
“I think that Montreal has reached a point in its history that presents an opportunity to do great things and move on with important projects. We have an opportunity to improve the quality of life of our citizens and we can build a promising future,” he said.
A priority on their agenda is to reinstate a collegial spirit and build teamwork at the borough. “We heard that people expect us to be more rigorous in managing the files and that quality of life in the borough is essential,” he concluded.