Waswanipi’s Matthew Happyjack got quite the surprise on December 16. Though he was delighted to find out that he had been selected to be the next president of Air Creebec, what took him aback was that within a few hours he was already getting phone calls congratulating him on the promotion.

News travels fast in the Cree communities.

As of December 9, Happyjack was told by the consulting firm that Air Creebec had hired to interview their internal candidates for the position that they were going to recommend him. All it took was the company’s stamp of approval.

When the Nation called him within hours of getting his final confirmation as president last month, Happyjack said that he was very excited, especially since the company is flying on strong financial wings.

“Air Creebec has a solid balance sheet; they have been making profits for the last five years. They have had solid goals and good planning. With their good planning, I can foresee other contracts and good revenues in the future,” said Happyjack.

At the same time, Happyjack is emotional in recognizing that filling the former president’s shoes will not be easy. He replaces Albert Diamond, who passed away last September and was known for his charisma and passion as a businessman whose flair for the aviation industry helped make Air Creebec the success it is today.

Happyjack was Diamond’s cousin and he worked alongside him for many years on various boards.

Still, Happyjack isn’t intimidated by assuming the president’s chair. “I look at this more like a challenge but I have the necessary tools,” he said.

By tools, Happyjack is referring to his many years of service to the Cree business world, Air Creebec and commerce.

Happyjack estimates that he has already served on Air Creebec’s board of directors for about 75 per cent of its existence. He has also served as a board member for the Board of Compensation, was the manager of a Caisse Populaire, an education administrator and held various other senior management positions.

Happyjack also holds a certificate in accounting and has taken many other business courses for as much as he now plans to pursue an MBA program for senior managers on top of his new professional responsibilities.

On a personal side, Happyjack is a consummate family man as a father of seven children and at 46 years old he enjoys long distance walking and keeping in shape.

Upon stepping into his new position this January, Happyjack is planning on being a hands-on manager by getting to know every individual department within the company. “I am a team player that likes a team approach. I think that when you work as a team, to obtain your goals is a lot easier,” said Happyjack.

As for Air Creebec, according to their communications director, Jonathan Saganash, the staff at the company could not be happier to have him as their head honcho.

“We are really excited for Mr. Happyjack and we are fully aware that this will be a series of new challenges for him and his family. We are really anxious, Director General David Bertrand, and Chief Financial Officer, Sylvain Dicaire, to sit down with him on his first week,” said Saganash.

Saganash said that Happyjack was a natural choice for the position because of the many years he had already spent dealing with the airline either directly or indirectly through the Board of Compensation and CREECO. The company’s decision-making process is already familiar to him.

Happyjack is also very well known throughout the business community in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, which Saganash said is an asset that Air Creebec could capitalize upon.

Saganash said Happyjack and his family received a warm welcome when they were introduced to Air Creebec’s staff at their December 19 Christmas party.

“Everyone was really happy, came to shake his hand and was quite anxious to get to know him. Happyjack is quite known for being a team player and everyone is looking forward to working with him at this level,” said Saganash.

Saganash said that the future is already looking particularly bright despite the economic difficulties of the past year.

“We have been working on a long-term strategic plan and CREECO has also been working on a separate one. We are really looking forward to the future, particularly with the mining projects and all of the other developments in Ontario and even in Manitoba. There are other areas were we are really looking to improve business regionally and possibly offer different services from what is already there. It is looking really good for us,” said Saganash.