Great Scott!! What An Author!!

Lethbridge native Scott Sakatch worked a number of years with the Lethbridge Herald and I’m sure inspired many a future journalist as an instructor at the Lethbridge College. He is also a published novelist. Here’s proof:

https://www.amazon.com/False-Witness-Mystery-Thriller-Scott-Sakatch-ebook/dp/B06WV94W96/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1524540095&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=false+witness-scott+sketch

I caught up with Scott this week through the power of e-mail and asked him about his life and career.

How would you describe your childhood growing up in Lethbridge?

Well, I’m northsider, so all the concussions have affected my long-term memory. But seriously… I went the three-W route in schooling: Westminster, Wilson and Winston Churchill. I lived in Park Meadows and our neighbourhood backed onto a green strip, which was sort of like having our own gated community. When the City turned on the sprinklers we’d all go out our back gates, meet in the park and have water fights, then walk four blocks to the Superette to buy blue whales with my 25 cent allowance. I can still remember when the Safeway opening was a huge deal, because at that point it was the largest Safeway in Western Canada AND IT WAS RIGHT DOWN THE STREET! Also, I’ll never forget the day the Park Meadows 7-11 opened and I watched Darin Grubel order a “mix” Slurpee; the thought that someone could possibly play with the laws of the universe like that made my brain explode. And, of course, all the while I listened to 1090 CHEC as some guy with a push-broom moustache spun all the hit records of the day.

Growing up I always thought I wanted out of Lethbridge, then later, as a father, I realized there was no place else I wanted my family to be. Career took us away from the city after the kids were grown, but Lethbridge will always be home for us.

When did you figure out that you might have a knack at creative writing?

I vividly remember watching Sesame Street at some point, and they were doing this bit where they took a C and pushed it towards an AT (remember phonics?) and made CAT. And suddenly this light bulb goes off in my head and I’m like “That’s how this works? Piece of cake!” I also remember being in kindergarten and arguing with my brother Shawn over his Grade 2 spelling homework. He thought the word was “pickel” and I kept telling him that, no, it was “pickle.” (It’s 45 years later and I’m still doing the same thing on Facebook). So I think my brain is just hard-wired for words, as opposed to say, math, which reduces me to a sniveling puddle of despair. I’d read everything I could get my hands on when I was a kid – comics, Hardy Boys, science fiction pulp stories, cereal boxes – and I’d fantasize about what it would be like to have something I had written be published and read by other people. My first foray into writing was a construction paper book in Grade 1 – I think it was basically pictures of things and “this is a (horse, dog, apple)” but my teacher actually had it placed in the George McKillop library for some reason. And in Grade 2, I wrote something for a class assignment about pollution and next thing I know, I’m on stage reading it to the school. Don’t ask me why either teacher did those things, because I have no clue.

More on the creative writing later…You graduated from the Lethbridge College in Journalism. What inspired you to take the course?

That’s a story in itself. I worked for CP Rail in my early 20s, and after six years I still didn’t have a permanent position, so I was starting to wonder about my future. One evening at the BIGGEST SAFEWAY IN WESTERN CANADA, I bumped into Richard Powell, my Language Arts teacher from Wilson, in the checkout line. Mr. Powell was a huge influence on me as an adolescent, teaching me that imagination was more important than memorization, and I really looked up to him. He asked me what I was doing now (I was 26 at the time) and I told him I worked for the railroad. He nodded politely, but I thought I saw a hint of disappointment in his eyes. I went home and remembered how much I’d enjoyed working on the Wilson newspaper back in Grade 9 (Mr. Powell was the publisher) and that was a watershed moment for me. Within a few weeks, I’d left the railroad and signed up at the college for the following fall. I knew from the very first day, sitting in Veryl Todd’s Mass Communications class in the Coulee Theatre, that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. By the way, if anyone knows how to get in touch with Mr. Powell, I’d love to talk to him. I mentioned him in the foreword to False Witness.

You were a writer and editor for the Lethbridge Herald. How would you describe that time of your career?

I always told my kids growing up that the value of an education, whatever form that might take, was that it gives you the opportunity to make money doing what you enjoy. And if you enjoy your job, it doesn’t seem like a job. That’s how I felt at the Herald. Journalism is unlike any other career – where else can you spend your morning interviewing a celebrity, your afternoon flying in a CF-18 and your evening listening to the city’s finance committee talk about… okay, maybe it wasn’t ALWAYS a thrill ride, but you get what I mean. I had the opportunity to do a variety of work in my nine years there – everything from reporting and writing to editing and layout. One of the highlights of my time was working on developing the Event and Home & Style sections in 2002, which eventually led to a 72-page Saturday edition. I was pretty proud to be a part of that. I got to work with some of the nicest, smartest and funniest people you could ever meet, and I even married one of them. I’ve said many times, in all honesty, that in nine years at the Herald, there wasn’t a single day where I woke up and thought, “Ugh, I have to go to work.”

You made a decision to start your own weekly newspaper with The Journal. What was your thinking behind that and in retrospect, was that a good move for you?

Well, I made money at it, so I guess it was a good move. I’d left the Herald and started a consulting business a couple of years before I was approached by the people behind what would eventually become the Journal. I liked the idea of a community newspaper that was delivered by Canada Post, because it was guaranteed to make it to the reader’s home. At the time, that was revolutionary, and advertisers appreciated it. Plus I was given carte blanche to make the Journal into what I believed a free community newspaper should be, which doesn’t happen every day. In hindsight, there were steps we should have taken that we didn’t, and we definitely encountered some opposition, but I’m glad I did it and I’m proud of what we put out.

Many people say they have an idea to write a novel but never get around to actually doing it. You actually got around to doing it with “False Witness.” Give us the Coles Notes on what the book is about.

False Witness follows Alex Dunn, a reporter for a Calgary newspaper who accidentally witnesses a murder and becomes the star witness in the trial of Rufus Hodge, the ruthless head of an outlaw biker gang. Straight from the description page on Amazon:

Rufus Hodge is the vicious leader of an outlaw biker gang, a cold-blooded drug dealer and an all-round bastard. So when reporter Alex Dunn stumbles upon Hodge executing an innocent man, a guilty verdict is a foregone conclusion. But is Hodge really the killer, or is that just what everyone wants to believe?

As the star witness in the trial of the decade, Alex’s testimony puts Hodge behind bars for life. After a quick conviction, Alex is ready to put the ordeal behind him, but someone has other plans. Within hours of the verdict, other witnesses involved in the trial are murdered in disturbing ways, and it looks like Alex is next on the revenge list. Fearing for his life, he goes into hiding in a mountain resort town from his past. Meanwhile, Hodge’s right-hand man and a pair of Alex’s fellow reporters take a closer look at the case and quickly realize the facts don’t add up. Through it all, Hodge must fight to stay alive in a maximum-security prison with a hundred-thousand-dollar price on his head.

When the pieces finally come together, it’s clear that Alex is an unwitting pawn in a masterful scheme to manipulate the truth, and the people behind the plot are prepared to kill them all to keep the secret buried.  False Witness is a head-scratching whodunit that will keep you guessing right up to the last few pages.

Where did you get the idea for the plot?

I actually remember exactly where I was at the time: I was riding my bike through the alley from my apartment on 4th Avenue South to London Road Market. I wasn’t really thinking about anything and suddenly I wondered what it would be like if someone who thought they witnessed a crime had actually NOT seen what they thought they had. And what if that witness was someone who had the public’s trust and people just believed what they said. The question stuck in my head, and it grew from there. I like stories that blur the line between right and wrong, and that make you question your assumptions. Or some such writer-ish nonsense.

How hard was the process to get the book done?

It was ridiculous. The first half of the book, about 50,000 words, took me the better part of five years. I’d write here and there, then put it aside for months, then dust it off and fiddle with it, then give up, then come back to it. I used to go out to Dave and Judi Cassidy’s cabin at Beauvais Lake for three days at a stretch to “get serious about writing.” I usually ended up coming back with 500 words or so. Finally, in 2014, I reread Stephen King’s “On Writing,” where he points out that the vast majority of people who call themselves writers never actually finish anything. Therefore, if you finish something, even if it’s terrible, you’re ahead of the pack. So I vowed to finish the damn thing. And ten days later, I had banged out the second 50,000 words. The crazy thing is, reading the book over, I couldn’t tell where the five-year section ended and the ten-day section began.

How disciplined are you when it comes to writing?

Not as disciplined as I’d like, but vastly more so than when I started. I can usually finish a 65,000-word manuscript in four weeks; sometimes less if I’m really pushing deadline. I’ve written 14,000 words in a day.

Was there ever a time when you said, “Screw it, this isn’t worth it.”

At least once a week, but I managed to talk myself out of it.

What was the moment like when your book was finally done and it was actually available on line?

It was surreal. When you go through the process of publishing on Amazon, it takes a couple of days, so I found myself clicking over and over to see when it finally went live, Then when it’s finally there, you go through it and bask in the glory of being a published author… and then you download a copy onto your Kindle and immediately notice all the spelling mistakes you missed.

You’ve had some positive response to the book. That must have felt pretty good.

I’m ashamed to admit that positive reviews are like crack to me. I’ve ghost-written romance novels that got hundreds of glowing reviews, but my favorite review is one of just a handful I’ve received for “False Witness.” I was sitting in the Calgary airport one day, waiting out a flight delay, and I flipped to my Goodreads page. A reviewer wrote that the book had “turned a train ride from hell into a fun, enjoyable time.” I actually got in touch with the person and thanked her for turning the “airport delay from hell” into a great day for me. All I’m looking for is to give someone an escape for a few hours. I ain’t doing Hemingway over here.

I’m guessing you’re not at the Stephen King level of income for your novels. What do you do to help pay the bills?

I’ve actually been a professional ghost writer for a year now. Since last April, I’ve written seven novels and two novellas (plus another novella under my own name, a thriller called “In Angel We Trust”). Most of them were one-off romances, but the last three have been part of a post-apocalypse series that’s been really fun to write.

Knowing now what you didn’t know when you got your first job in the media, is there anything you would have done differently?

Definitely not, because if I had I wouldn’t have met my wife. But if you take that out of the equation, I think I would have taken a risk and travelled more. There are tons of things going on around the world that don’t get reported simply because there’s no one there to write about them.

What is the future of print journalism?

I think convergence is a foregone conclusion, and that it won’t be long before we forget that there was ever a distinction between electronic and print media. I firmly believe that the business model of print media is unsustainable, as is traditional broadcast, and that we’re going to end up with every news outlet being entirely online soon. I know a lot of people think this is the “death of journalism” but I think it’s actually an opportunity for people to come up with local news websites that offer their local advertisers amazing reach with consumers and a good product that people want to read and watch. It just takes a little imagination and some technical skill.

You’ve been known to have a few political opinions. What were your thoughts when the NDP came into power in Alberta and do you see them winning another term?

I no longer have political opinions, because like the proverbial corn chute, everyone’s got one and no one really wants to know anything about yours. Plus I promised Janine that I was out of politics for good. But if you want an election night story, I can say this: I was standing next to Greg Weadick as the numbers came in, and when it became clear there was going to be an orange crush, I said to him: “You know, if you’d lost by a couple hundred votes, I would always beat myself up wondering how I could have squeezed out a win.” Then Greg said: “When it’s something like this, you just have to stand there and let it wash over you.” It reminded me of the night 15 years earlier, when I was standing next to him as a reporter and it was clear that Bob Tarleck was going to beat him in the race for mayor. Greg shrugged and said “The people have spoken, and they want Bob.” I never believed that a single political party had all the answers; I campaigned for Greg Weadick because he’s a great guy, I believed in him and thought he was the best man for the job. I still think that to this day.

That said, I’m absolutely positive the NDP will win the next election with a reduced majority.

You’re also a big movie fan so…..Name your top 5 movies of all time.

I hate these things. Okay, in order:

 

  1. Godfather saga (1 and 2; 3 can suck an egg)

 

  1. To Kill A Mockingbird

 

  1. Apocalypse Now

 

  1. Pulp Fiction

 

  1. Manchester By The Sea

And you love music…so…Top 5 albums of all time

  1. The Wall, Pink Floyd

 

  1. Frampton Comes Alive, Peter Frampton

 

  1. Kind Of Blue, Miles Davis

 

  1. The Sound Of Music, Rogers & Hammerstein

 

  1. Nevermind, Nirvana

Top 5 concerts of all time.

Oh, man, so many…

  1. U2

 

  1. Snoop Dogg in Lethbridge (I’m not kidding, ask Dylan Purcell)

 

  1. Bruno Mars

 

  1. Foo Fighters

 

  1. Lionel Richie

Tell us about any upcoming writing projects.

I’m currently working on a science fiction novel with bestselling author Timothy Ellis, due out in the next couple of months, called Burnside’s Killer. And I’m planning to launch a series of sci-fi adventure books in September called the Immortal Bastard. I’m going to use everything I’ve learned about online publishing over the last year to, hopefully, get established under my own name. Here goes nothing.

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The Vegas Golden Knights and Other Stuff

At the time of this writing, it was a Friday night and a few things were racing through my mind:

I love that the Las Vegas Knights have a legitimate shot at winning a championship in their first year of existence in the NHL. It’ll be cool to see if they can incorporate the Stanley Cup at the Excalibur Tournament of Kings show.

Now that most of the snow has melted I’m finding more lost gloves.

I was sad to hear that Kevin Layton passed away. We had a few chats over the years and he represented himself very well at the election forums last year. I always admired his passion for civic politics.

It’s really early in the season but I was ready to give up on the Blue Jays after their opening two games against the Yankees. And then the new guys really started to step up their game. I concede by virtue of the fact that they’re in the American League East it’s going to be an uphill battle but I’m rather impressed with them right now. The future is looking amazing as long as not everyone will want a $30 million year contract.

Something you don’t like to hear: “Sorry man, I thought you said you wanted your ducks cleaned. I don’t know anything about furnaces.”

Anyone notice on 4/20 there were more “potholes” than usual on our city streets?

Councillors and Library board members were given a tour of the library that is under renovation. It’s been a challenging time for patrons and staff this winter but it’s looking great. The public should be happy to know there will be more computers available once the completed library reopens in June. During the tour I snuck in a book I had forgotten to return. I’ve had it since 1971.

Dustin Forbes does a great job as the play-by-play voice of the Hurricanes. I once had aspirations to be a hockey announcer. I was a huge Danny Gallivan fan. Who else has ever said, “The puck got caught up in his paraphernalia?” I remember taking my tape recorder to a Lethbridge Sugar Cane game back in the old arena and doing some play-by-play. Many of you are probably saying, “What’s a tape recorder?”

I used to pride myself on knowing who the latest groups were and what songs they did. Today when a radio announcer gives the song title and the artist I often don’t know which one is which.

I never get sick of a grilled cheese sandwich.

Three things I want to do that I’ve never done:

  1. Write a book.
  2. Write a one act show.
  3. Write a song.

I hope to continue with Cool Cars, Interesting People. Stay tuned. There are a lot of great personalities in this city that should have their story told.

Putting It Into Perspective

There are some contentious issues we’re dealing with at the city these days and there are people that are upset.

Pro-life vs Pro-choice.

Curbside recycling.

The closing of 43rd street.

I wish I had the solutions to please everyone but I think it’s safe to say that is never going to happen. As a councillor I try to make the best decision based on the information I get. The Pro-life/pro-choice controversy is currently out of council’s hands as administration, the transit department and Pattison signs deal with that.

Curbside recycling has been voted in by a previous council and it is going forward.

As far as 43rd goes here’s an explanation:

This is an area which previous city councils have acknowledged that, in retrospect, was flawed in its original design as far as having no thru access between Mayor Magrath Drive and 43 Street South.

Efforts have been made in more recent years to address those flaws as much as is possible with already-developed residential areas and road designs. As City Council, we recognize that the solutions we have approved to mitigate those flaws are imperfect and cannot please everyone. Our objective is to address those original design flaws in ways that serve the best interests of the community at large and help avoid similar difficulties in the future.

The original concept of using 43 Street South as an arterial connector to Highway 5 in the airport area would have further divided and restricted access between the Fairmont/Southgate neighbourhoods and future residential neighbourhoods east of them. In addition, neither Fairmont Gate South nor Southgate Boulevard were designed or built to handle the traffic volume that a direct connection to 43 Street South would have posed.

In recent years, the current alignment of this section of 43 Street South has been maintained temporarily, in response to requests from area residents, but it was never intended to become permanent. The new access to Highway 4/24 Ave. S. via 47 Street is scheduled to open in mid-August this year. The updated long-term plan is to shift the arterial connector road further east to 58 Street South.

For me all of these matters are overshadowed by the tragedy of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash especially with the local connection of Logan Boulet. I just can’t stop thinking about it. I’ve known his father Toby for a number of years and my heart is broken for the family. I just saw a wonderful story by Global TV’s Matt Bottochio as he talked to Toby about why Logan decided to sign his organ donor card. I had to pause the video to grab a tissue. Last week I was once again teary-eyed for what seemed like three days when NHL coaches Mike Babcock of the Leafs and Oiler coach Todd McLellan gave their emotional responses to the media, the four Swift Current Broncos who were involved in a fatal bus crash in the 80s showed up to talk to the survivors in the Saskatoon hospital where they were recovering and then to see NHL teams join together at center ice in a moment of silence before their own hockey games was incredibly poignant.

A quick check of the Go Fund Me campaign and donations are closing in on $9 million. That’s Amazing. People all over are putting their hockey sticks out as part of Sticks Out For Humbolt. NHL teams and the Hurricanes are donating their 50-50 proceeds to Humboldt. As cliché as it is, the tragedy has united the country and it’s a reminder there are good people in this world where skepticism and animosity is often front and centre. It’s a paradox but as I ache, I also in a way feel good.

So, yes the 43rd street decision is probably not going away and I understand why there are frustrated people who want me to resign because of my vote but for now it’s just not as important as embracing life. We’ll get back to that soon enough. Right now I’m off to hug my wife and kids.

This Is April?

It’s April. You look outside to see the snow still falling down. You’ve been shoveling your walks for what seems like an eternity. The lack of color makes it feel like you’re caught in some kind of apocalyptic nuclear fallout event. You check the weather forecast and for the next three days it’s calling for more snow and high temperatures hovering around -4. Driving on the roads is like an obstacle course because of the plethora of ruts. And then one morning you’re outside your house brushing off the snow from your car for the millionth time when suddenly and without warning you just lose it and you scream, “ENOUGH ALREADY!! GIVE ME SOME SUNSHINE AND SOME HEAT!!”

Oddly, your neighbors aren’t shocked by the outburst. Instead, you hear some applause and a thumbs up.

I’ve never been one to complain too much about the weather. We live in an area where conditions are historically capricious no matter what time of year it is. It comes with the territory. But this cold and snowy spell has gone too far. As I keep telling people, I am sooooo over it.

It’s so nice to turn on the Masters and see lush greens and colorful azaleas. And people aren’t even wearing jackets. Alas I long for those days to return to southern Alberta.

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If you asked legendary screen writer Aaron Sorkin 18 years ago when Daniel and Henrik Sedin first broke into the NHL to write a crazy Hollywood style movie about these two identical twins I doubt that you’d get as good of a story as what really happened. The final home game of the season goes into overtime and Daniel scores the winner assisted by his brother Henrik at 2:33. (Daniel is number 22 and Henrik is number 33.) Are you kidding?

I admit to once again getting all teared up as the fans cheered them as they circled the rink. The twins have exuded class their entire career. And what class for the Arizona Coyotes to stay and shake hands with them. I wonder if there’s any magic left when they play their final game in Edmonton?

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After the Jesus Christ Superstar live event on TV I went on line and came across another version of Gethsemane sung by Ted Neeley. I had never seen it sung quite like this. See what you think:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRHYxzt7xG4

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There’s been some strange sightings in my neighborhood when walking my dog. First off, I’ve never seen as many deer wandering the streets and parks as I have this year. I guess it’s our version of Calgary’s Deerfoot.

One day I walked past a tree that had at least 50 crows in it. I tweeted out earlier that I had the feeling I was in a Steven King movie. If I don’t show up at the next council meeting it was the crows.

And then I walked past another tree and there had to be about 10 robins in it. I have never seen that many robins together ever. Maybe they were conferring on what the hell they were in Lethbridge when it’s still snowing. Their version of Get Out.

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I’d love to see another deep run for the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Go Canes!!

Superstar Revisited

I think it’s safe to say that Jesus Christ Superstar has been a big part of my life. It was discussed in my religion class at Catholic Central High School when the concept album first came out in 1971. After falling in love with the Soundtrack I subsequently saw the movie (thought it was kind of weird) saw the West End production in London in 1976, saw Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson in a performance at the Jubilee in Calgary about 20 years ago, later saw another touring version with Ted Neeley in Lethbridge (got to meet him back stage-very cool) and I’ve performed in three local versions of the show over a period of 30 years playing the part of Simon in the first production and Judas for the other two. This Easter Sunday a new live production hit the airwaves on NBC and featured John Legend as Jesus.

I never get tired of the music and the story. I’ve seen the show hundreds of times yet on Sunday when I heard the haunting melody of John 19:41 after Jesus died on the cross, (sorry for not giving you a spoiler alert) I still teared up with emotion.

I thought the show was brilliant. There was an amazing set, I loved that the musicians were intertwined onto the stage, the vocals were superb and there were some nuances that I had never seen before. The legendary Alice Cooper brought his own unique spin on the part of Herod. Brandon Victor Dixon who played the part of Aaron Burr in Hamilton was Judas. His version of “Superstar” was a show stopper. For me the only person who can play Mary Magdellan is Yvonne Elliman but Sara Bareillis is a close second. The high priests were stellar as was Ben Daniels who played the part of Pontius Pilate.

When I first became enthralled with JCS I always had the dream to one day play the part of Jesus. His soliloquy Gethsemane is one of the most powerful moments in the show. But as I dug deeper into the relationship with Jesus and Judas it became clear (in my mind) that the meatier role is actually Judas. When you break it down, the show is less religious and more political. Judas was afraid that the movement under Jesus was going to get them all killed. The Romans didn’t like how popular Jesus had become. Today Judas might be called a whistle blower. He was torn between his authentic love and admiration for Jesus and his belief that it was important to appease the Romans. Turning Jesus in was a gut-wrenching decision and when he saw that the Romans beat Jesus mercilessly he was devastated. The guilt was too much and ultimately it ended in his suicide. One of my favorite dramatic scenes in the show is when Judas kisses Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus sings, “Judas, must you betray me with a kiss ?” In our version of the show, Jesus grabs Judas and hugs him as if to say I understand why you’re doing this and I forgive you. I honestly teared up every night. It had been 30 years since we did the very first show and I think there’s something to say about living a life, having some experiences and having the ability to relate to what is an important turning point in one’s life. (At least that’s the psychologist in me saying that.) I didn’t feel the same emotion the first time I played Judas which was 15 years earlier.

Now, having said how brilliant the live professional TV show was I do have to say with a great deal of prejudice that I truly believe that our little show in 2016 had a tremendous cast that in many ways could match what I saw Sunday night. While John Legend has tremendous pipes, our Jesus, George Gallant gave so much more emotion to the role. You could have easily put our own Jordana Kohn on that stage as Mary and people would have wondered how many Broadway shows she’s done. I have not seen a better Pontius Pilate than Dave Mikuliak. And while Alice Cooper is…Alice Cooper, our Herod is…Bill Lawson. (You just can’t explain either.) Our show couldn’t compete with the set and the overall true professionalism that professionals can bring to a performance but I honestly believe that our show had a lot of soul and I think Lethbridge audiences could feel that.

I doubt that I’ll ever get a chance to play Judas again but I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to do so a couple of times. I’ll continue to love listening to my original JCS soundtrack and I’ll probably buy the new one. (I’m not sure how you buy soundtracks anymore. Is Anglo Stereo & Photo’s Record Cellar still open?)

Oh, and if anyone can line up me having a beer with Andrew Lloyd Webber, I’d appreciate it. I’ll even buy.

Dr. Robert Ballard & Other Stuff

Randomnation…

I had the great fortune of talking to Titanic discoverer Dr. Robert Ballard who was the keynote speaker at the Greatness In Leadership conference last week. A few things that I took from our conversation:

-The fact that he is dyslexic didn’t prevent him from becoming one of the greatest oceanographers of all time.

-Everyone needs to find a passion. As soon as he saw 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea as a youngster he knew what he wanted to do and that passion has not waned.

-Learn how to fail. We all fail at some point in our lives. How you handle that failure will define you.

-He loved the movie Titanic and is great friends with Jim Cameron.

I also got to talk to Olympian Catriona Le May Doan. Until she mentioned it in her speech I was not aware that she was the first Canadian ever to defend a gold medal and she broke the “Flag bearer curse.” That’s where the Canadian selected to carry the flag during opening ceremonies has traditionally had horrible luck when they competed. (Please don’t tell my wife, but I continue to have a big crush on her.)

It was cool to see Julie and Lowell Taylor (Amazing Race Canada) meet Catriona. Lowell hopes to compete in the next summer Paralympics in biking. Catriona is a big inspiration to him.

Also speaking on the day were Darci Lang who hails from Saskatchewan and has great 80s hair. She was very entertaining and brought her philosophy of concentrating on the positive 90%.

Motivational speaker Connie Podesta was very funny and engaging.

Stephen Carlisle is the President of GM Canada. When I asked him to tell me what his very first car was he chose to not remember. I got a chuckle out of that. GM is certainly poised for the future as they look to alternate fuel sources and self-driving cars.

I’ll have all of those interviews available soon.

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I got to hand out a couple awards at the Regional Science Fair at the University on the weekend. These young kids are incredibly enthusiastic and I loved seeing that passion. They could be the next Dr. Ballard. I was not a scientific kind of guy when I was in school but I always admired those whose brain functioned in an entirely different way than mine.

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I see some people are upset about the money approved to buy artwork for the new ATB Leisure Centre. Putting a value on art can be controversial and I understand that. There’s many times I’ve walked into the Southern Alberta Art Gallery and wondered, “What is this?” But money is allocated for art and if it’s there, I think we need to take advantage of it. We have local art experts making recommendations and I trust in their judgement. Would I have liked a local person be awarded the contract? Yes. But there’s a process in place and I respect their decisions. As we hear many times, art is subjective. I still believe that while the physical building is the heart, the art is its soul. There will never be 100% agreement.

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Congratulations to Darryl Kenna of the Epiphany Group for their brand new building which is in the old Sun Life Building. They’ve done a lot of renovations and to quote Ricardo Montalban, “It Looks Marvelous.” (It’s probably more of a quote from Billy Crystal doing an impersonation of Ricardo Montalban.) And McMurren’s Gym once beat his team, Tom’s Roofing 1-0 in ball hockey one year. I will forever say that for the rest of my life because it was the greatest moment in my athletic career.

The New Kid In Town-William Slenders

William Slenders is the Executive Director of the newly formed Lethbridge Destination Management Organization. (LDMO) I thought it would be nice to get to know him a little better and what he sees for the future of Lethbridge.

Where did you grow up and how would you describe your childhood?

I grew up around the whole of Southern Alberta. Home was always Scandia, but between the involvement in 4-H and sports we were always traveling to events and other communities. I met many of my friends throughout the cities of Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, and Brooks and as soon as I had my driver’s license I was gone for every weekend. Growing up as a farm kid always had its fair share of work and trouble making. To this day, March is not a month I look forward too just because of calving and my fair share of running away tail firmly between my legs from an angry mother cow. Beyond the work, the farm was a place of education and trial and error. Learning how to make things work when you did not have the tools was a common skill I enjoyed using in many day to day activities. I can’t imagine a better place to grow up than here in Southern Alberta.

You got your degree at the U of L. What was the degree and what was that experience like?

I double majored in International Business and Marketing and received two minors in Japanese and Corporate Social Responsibility. The University of Lethbridge Faculty of Management was an outstanding place to obtain that education and in many ways a second home. Overall, the university offered amazing opportunities to engage with other students and community. I particularly enjoyed the business case competitions where we would compete among other universities for top place.

What were you doing before getting the new job with LDMO?

I had my own consulting business where I focused on helping other organizations do marketing and research. I enjoy research and helping other organizations so it was an excellent opportunity to do something I really enjoyed with the community. I had also returned to the family farm for a time where I was helping to develop enterprise processes to current programs they were operating.

What attracted you to applying for the position?

My wife encouraged me to apply for the position. She & I love Lethbridge and she encouraged me to try. I was also the managing director for another tourism group, the Newell Regional Tourism Association (NRTA) in Brooks Alberta for a great many of years, and loved every minute of it. I thought that this would be an excellent area of industry to become involved with again, and I enjoy helping communities grow and succeed.

It’s just beginning but what has been your first impressions of the new organization?

Absolutely fantastic. The board of the LDMO is incredible. Each one of the board members are incredible people with a deep passion for this community and it shows in the planning and direction that they have provided in the early stages. The city and the staff at the city has been an incredible partner to this as well and are deeply passionate about the success of our community.

In your mind what has been missing in recent years in terms of promoting Lethbridge?

Lethbridge is an incredibly authentic place to be. Every time I see Lethbridge, I am hoping to see more of what makes Lethbridge a fun and original place to be. This is going to be one of the bigger parts of my strategy moving forward. I think the biggest missing piece is communication. Lethbridge always has so many events going on and before we know about them they happen and we don’t get a chance to see if we can make them bigger. I think the biggest part of the puzzle moving forward will be to bridge communication between all of the events rights holders, businesses, accommodations, and industry to make a bigger and better Lethbridge event/destination.

Does Lethbridge need a new convention centre? If so, where should it be built?

I believe that a new Convention Centre would be something to look at. If not, then certainly an enhancement to an already existing facility, for example, Exhibition Park to cater to larger events would be in order. My concern with a Convention Centre is that they typically need to be built next to hotels and service industry ie. restaurants. I believe that the best utilization of a facility such as this would be located in the downtown core. I believe that a Convention Centre overlooking the magnificent view of our coulee and high level bridge would certainly be a memorable experience for visitors coming to our community. In short, I think there are many places to locate a Convention Centre in Lethbridge, but finding the right area will be a challenge.

Is a Performing Arts Centre an important part of attracting people to Lethbridge? And again, where should it be built?

Culture is a major attraction in Lethbridge and one that I believe will continue to be a major attraction into the coming years. I believe that a Performing Arts Centre would make for an incredible enhancement to the already existing arts & culture portfolio in Lethbridge. As with the Convention Centre, I too believe that this should be built downtown. Many people/tourists are looking into the downtown and are desiring a vibrant place to be a part of (hangout) [Roger Brooks- rogerbrooksinternational]. I believe that adding Convention Centre and a Performing Arts & Culture Centre would add a new level of vibrancy to the downtown and push the Downtown core into a new unique place to be.

What improvements would you like to see at the airport?

A longer runway for bigger planes (bigger planes equals capacity for more people) and some additional flights coming into the community from other airports. There is a great deal of interest in aboriginal culture from international markets. If we can create more flights from Calgary to Lethbridge, instead of internationals boarding a bus from Calgary and driving to Lethbridge for the experience, I believe we will continue to grow the services and potential of both the airport and the tourism industry as a whole within this region.

What is your overall vision for making Lethbridge a tourist destination?

I believe that Lethbridge has to focus on what makes it authentic. Lethbridge is incredibly relaxed and has a ton of great events, festivals, and attractions that will people from all over Canada and internationally will travel to see. Lethbridge is also incredibly competitive, and the sports in this community are testament to that fact. I believe that the key to making Lethbridge a destination of choice is to activate our residents and let them tell the authentic story of why Lethbridge is the destination of choice. In so doing, many new festivals and events, volunteers, and opportunities will continue to grow Lethbridge as a destination of choice.

Top 5 albums of all time.

Can’t really say. I listen to so many things nowadays with Spotify and YouTube I don’t pay attention to albums as much as Individual Songs or some Artists. Old Dominion, Spacehog and Live as artists have been in my playlists a little bit more than normal now.

Top 5 movies of all time.

Top Gun, Jurassic Park (1), The Empire Strikes Back, The Dark Knight, The Illusionist

Favorite Actor

Hugh Jackman

Favorite Actress

Halle Berry

As you look into your crystal ball what is going to be the most significant thing you’ve accomplished after one year?

Becoming a dad! (Baby due in April). In all seriousness, getting partners and groups to work with me on exciting new programs and new interactive technologies will be a big win for the LDMO.

And final thoughts….?

Hopefully not, I just got here!