Edmontonian of 2013: Who is No. 2?
Avenue Magazine can name the Top 40 Under 40, the Wanderer can laud Edmonton’s Top 100 Women in Business, we can read one rearend Top 10 list after another – but just as Time Magazine has to pick only one Person of the Year from all the apples and oranges and other various fruits and vegetables in the world, there can be only one EDMONTONIAN OF THE YEAR at GigCity. Just don’t have the budget to do any more.
And that person is … Don Iveson. Of course he is. Never mind. No point in having this silly contest at all, is there? The guy won the Mayor Chair in a freakin’ landslide. He looks like a Kennedy. He can speak in complete sentences. EDMONTONIAN OF 2013 is obvious.
So that’s why this year we shall have a race for NUMBER TWO! Which local newsmaker is worthy to get behind Don Iveson? All of them, you say? Some good names came up:
This local novelist has achieved billboard-bus bench-checkout-stand-grocery-separator marketing nirvana as 2013 draws to a finish. He published a terrific novel, Come Barbarians, a gripping yarn involving gangsters in France that could totally be an action film starring Gerard Depardieu, and also helped create Make Something Edmonton, an anti-branding city branding campaign celebrating great Edmontonians numbering somewhere between 10 and 40 and 100. He forgot to include himself.
A Regular Joe, or in this case Josh, who ran for Mayor without a hope in hell of winning gave weight to the idea that public service is a noble sacrifice that anyone can take on. His common sense voice in the debates leading up to No. 1’s election was a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale campaign of rah-rah speeches. At one public forum, when one voter asked about the damned airport issue again, the bearded, ballcapped candidate shot back with the rhetorical question: “Why are we still talking about this?” and shut the guy right down. People listened to Josh, they took him seriously, including the other candidates, and he got 1.22% of the final vote to come in fourth behind Karen Leibovici and Kerry Diotte. It’s a sure thing we haven’t heard the last of Josh Semotiuk, nor from other young people he’s clearly inspired to get involved in public service. And we didn’t even mention the Motorhead endorsement. Too late, we did.
Mark Meer was the worthy winner of the 2012 Edmontonian of the Year, speaking of landslides (helped by social media self promotional clout). The thespian of choice this year could be Stewart Lemoine, playwright and founder of the Teatro la Quindicina theatre company. He was awarded the Diamond Jubilee medal this year for “significant contributions and achievements by Canadians,” on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II’s 60th anniversary. Turns out he has a roomful of medals and awards. Who knew? The guy does not blow his own horn too much. Lemoine’s many distinctive plays – so familiar to fans that they’re just called “Lemoines” – are as accessible as the playwright himself. You can just call him up on the phone at the Varscona Theatre. Seriously. This is the sort of thing you usually only find in Edmonton, and something that one often takes for granted.
Without this dedicated Alberta Avenue booster, there might not be an Alberta Avenue. She’s in charge of two of Edmonton’s major festivals (Kaleido in the summer, Deep Freeze in the winter) that like the Fringe were built from the ground up; and has been instrumental in helping the neighbourhood grow from a place you wouldn’t want to be at night to a thriving hippy arts culture that rivals the Old Strathcona scene 20 years ago. Definite future mayor potential here, too.
The Edmonton Journal’s star columnist has asked NOT to be named Edmontonian of the Year, but she needn’t worry since this is a race for No. 2, remember? Besides, media types almost never win these things, at least while they’re still in the media (see Scott McKeen). Nonetheless, Simons continues to be fearless in calling out injustice and stupidity with both balanced reporting and eloquence. She is by far the city’s No. 1 Bullshit Detector. It is a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it.
This NAIT professor is one of a number of largely anonymous citizens bravely fighting City Hall – the contentious issue in this case being the beloved Cloverdale footbridge, slated for destruction to make way for the LRT expansion. Kowalchuk rallied an impressive number of opponents to the plan, which as it stands doesn’t have enough money to continue without a substantial tax increase – which would pretty much disqualify Don Iveson from the Edmontonian of the Year title in 2014.
At the risk of having too many media people on the list, this BT television host deserves inclusion for his literally tireless work ethic – hosting several hours of daytime television content at ungodly hours every weekday. Charity work comes into this, too. Among many other causes supported throughout the year, Jespersen helped raise more than $10,000 for Movember, and had Councillor Scott McKeen shave off his moustache on live television. Jespersen, too, is a pretty good bullshit detector, tackling tough issues with his subjects in mainly ad-lib segments, as much as the light and bright daytime talk format will allow. He took on Danielle Smith over the anti-gay candidate controversy during a COOKING segment while she was wearing an APRON. Don’t see that every day – but rest assured you’re going to see stuff just like it on BT. Every day.
Have we left anybody out? Keep in mind the above are only suggestions. Feel free to “write in” other names. Business leaders, musicians, politicians, scientists, social activists. The suggestion we get an Oiler in there – Hemsky? – didn’t go over very well, but don’t let that stop you. There’s the former mayor, a bunch of newly elected City Councillors, and many, many other media types. We are looking for newsmakers, after all.