«This is the Only Thing that I Want», Says Norway’s New Svalbard Governor
When jurist Lars Fause acted as Deputy Svalbard Governor ten years ago, it was to experience the iconic island in the Polar Ocean. He has longed back ever since. On 1 July, his dream comes true when he assumes the position of Svalbard Governor and becomes Norway’s prime representative in Svalbard.
Last March, the Norwegian government issued a press release:
“The Government has appointed Attorney General Lars Fause to the position of new Governor in Svalbard.”
Behind the formal notification we find Lars Fause (56). And when the experienced jurist assumes office on 1 July and can refer to himself as the Svalbard Governor, it is the answer to a calling.
Drawn to the High North
The polar archipelago in the Barents Sea has tempted the governor-elect ever since he was there in the capacity of Deputy Svalbard Governor in the 2008-2010 period. He made history when he became the first person to evict someone from Svalbard for a period of two years.
“Everyone who knows me, knows that this is the only job I have talked about for the past ten years. This is all that I want, and the only job that I want, besides the one I have now”, Fause says.
He adds that he has enjoyed his job as attorney general and head of office at the Troms and Finnmark AG office for the past six years.
Las Fause was born in Storsteinnes hamlet in Troms County, and the government considers him “highly qualified for the role” of the new Svalbard governor, which is the Norwegian state’s highest-ranking representative in Svalbard.
What is it about Svalbard that keeps pulling you back?
“There has been that fascination ever since childhood. For as long as I can remember, I have taken an interest in the Svalbard Treaty, politics, and just the very phenomenon of Svalbard”, Fause explains.
In addition, there were many people from his native hamlet who traveled to Svalbard to work, either in mining or other industries.
“Svalbard is Norway’s jewel and means a lot to the country.”
He will be on site by midsummer and will hit the ground running. He brings a small load with him from Tromsø, but nothing much. His family will remain in Tromsø, where they have their jobs and school.
What was it like, making that decision?
“My two oldest are in university. My youngest daughter and my bonus daughter are in secondary education while my wife works full-time in law. So yes, I go there alone. I probably cannot go home each weekend, but perhaps one weekend every month. Nevertheless, we have talked about this for ten years, and my nearest and dearest are well aware of it. Nobody was surprised when I applied for the position”, Fause says frankly.
When he traveled to Svalbard to work in 2008, it was mostly to experience the island with all it had to offer of nature and history. Now, something else pulls him north. A desire to contribute, to give back, to complete a mission.
A calling, if you will.
“I am extremely focused on the job. On doing a good job. It is a complex position with a variety of tasks such as search and rescue, preparedness, and wildlife management. Extremes, with hand-picked staff who hold a lot of knowledge and special competences”, Fause says.
The art of being a leader
What will be your personal contribution to this job?
The first moment of silence during this interview ensues. Lars Fause has thought a lot about leadership.
“Coordinated and steady leadership and contributing to development. It is important for me to understand the assignment and the tasks at hand, so that I can make sure people do their jobs in the best way possible”, he finally says.
The responsibility and trust invested in him by the government weighs heavily on him.
“I am to be Oslo’s representative in Svalbard, having one foot in the ministry and the other in Svalbard, being equally grounded in both. Executing Norwegian Svalbard policy and maintaining the dialogue between the governor’s office and the government is important.”
Lars Fause has prepared well and thrown himself at every piece of literature and articles there is about the relationship between Svalbard and Russia, as well as potential geopolitical conflicts.
“But my job is to execute the government’s politics. They make the decisions. However, I am well oriented and educated.”
What do you think will be important for this job in the time ahead?
“I am pro-transparency. What we do in Svalbard should simply be transparent. I want to be a leader who listens more than I talk and maintains an open and good dialogue with everyone”, the jurist says.
He is prepared to work hard and stresses that he takes on the job with both humility and expectations.
Svalbard is Norway’s jewel and means a lot to the country
Two weeks ago, he spent a week in Svalbard to have overlap meetings with current governor Kjerstin Askholt. During the week, it became clear to Fause that he has big shoes to fill.
“She is an amazing person for whom I have tremendous respect. I really wish I got to work with her for longer than a week. Though I look forward to moving now.”
What do you think starting this job during a pandemic will be like?
“A good vaccination plan for Longyearbyen ahs been set up, so all we can do is cross our fingers and hope we are lucky to avoid infection. So far, this has gone well.”
The office of Svalbard Governor is a three-year appointment with the option of up to three years prolonging. Fause follows Kjerstin Askholt, who in June leaves office after six years as Svalbard Governor. She has been appointed new Police Chief in Ager county.
This article was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Elisabeth Bergquist.