In this city, it’s common to see uncommon success stories. Frankly, that’s why I love it here. I love big thinkers, risk takers and people who suffer from delusions of optimism, ideals, progress, and prosperity.
In this City, people can challenge the odds of convention, and still build great things. This is true of business, arts, sports & culture and social enterprise.
Bill Comrie was an awe-inspiring 19-years of age when he inherited a struggling family furniture business. With the aptly named idea for a “Midnight Madness” sale, Comrie transformed an industry and created a billion dollar business legacy, here in Edmonton.
Dr. Maurice Lewis Van Vliet A lifelong academic, with no business experience, became the visionary, President and CEO of the Commonwealth Games of 1978. Driving this idea to reality because of his passion for sport and the city. Without doubt, a defining moment in our city’s coming of age as volunteers and major event hosts.
Brian Paisley a small-time theatre director with $50,000 in public funding created the Fringe Festival, the first, and still largest of it’s kind in North America. With dozens of cities copying the model. Edmonton has seen an unbelievable return on that $50,000 investment and it was a small amount of money behind someone with a creative vision and idea.
These people did not necessarily succeed because of their experience. They succeeded with their vision and an idea, and importantly because they could tap the energy of Edmonton itself. Be it Economic or Ideal. Creative or Compassionate.
In today’s Edmonton, more than I have ever seen in my life here, we are filled with potential. Not because of one generation vs. another, but because of a confidence blessed on it from an extraordinary economy, a diversifying economy and global thinking idea people.
But the City is also poised to capitalize on that potential, not from overflowing wells of age or experience, but from the endless energy and visions of an emerging new class of leaders. We know many of these people. New immigrants, university graduates, geeky policy wonks and crazily ambitious entrepreneurs. Most of them are much younger than me. All of them are IDEA people.
I have no concerns that his business experience is limited to smaller companies; we are not hiring a business manager, we have a City Manager. Don has proven his ability to work with council and he knows that this is the lead role of a team of governors. Don will build consensus around the best idea, even if it’s not his own.
I have zero interest in play-it-safe politicians and I am ecstatic Don has the guts to chase the bigger challenge of Mayor, even at 34. People have really missed the important narrative here. In my opinion, Don had a guaranteed six-figure career as a councilor and many thought he should have served another term. But Don had the guts to take his shot and knowingly risk job security (with a young family), for the chance at making a bigger difference, based on a bigger vision for the City.
There’s no cloth from which you can simply cut out the perfect community servant. These people can be from all walks of life, ideology and experience. The good ones are action oriented and practical, yet idealistically rooted in public service. The best ones are thoughtful, personable, humble and big visionaries. Idea people.
Don is the best combination of these things, and unwilling to let anyone underestimate the City, it’s people and potential.
I’m quite cool with that; because neither am I*.
* I am proudly the current Chair of Startup Edmonton, Co-Chair of Make Something Edmonton, investor in three Edmonton startups, and Co-Founder / Co-CEO of Yardstick Software, one of Edmonton’s fastest growing knowledge-economy companies.