FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Gordon Dirks
September 3, 2013
I met him when I returned to Calgary 14 years ago – our paths kept crossing at political events and breakfast get togethers over blueberry pancakes at Nellies if I was buying, at Denny’s if he was. He’s frugal. And he’s become an interesting part of that collection I’m proud to call friend. He is a key influencer of social and fiscal policy in our province and in our city. After much tugging .. he finally agreed to sit with me to flesh out his crooked path for others to see:
Gordon Dirks is known to most Calgarians as a long serving School Board Trustee and Chairman. Or, maybe you knew him as President of Rocky Mountain College, or VP at Ambrose University – or at his current gig, Executive Pastor at Centre Street Church [4 campuses, lots of outreach facilities, active membership/attendance 8-10,000]. Less well known for his early career moves as Manager Trainee at Woolworths in Saskatoon, cameraman at CKCK TV in Regina, Principal of a K-8 School in Guernsey, SK .. among many other stops along the way. A Physical Education instructor who kept going back-to-school, his academic and religious credentials built as incrementally as did his political ones. Our discussion was punctuated by some personal observations, “I was surprised”, “I was ambitious”, “God calls us to be generous. My wife and I seek to live generously”.
His family background accounts for the work ethic and the religion – Gordon Dirks began life in Saskatoon, #2 kid in a family of 4 boys. His parents ‘got religion’ when he was 5, but the 60’s took him on a different path. His route to religion took a peculiar path, as did his career in politics. He describes his teen years being a transition from rejection to atheist, to agnostic, to hedonistic … and credits, among other things, the influence of meeting his wife Joy helping him a lot once he returned to the church.
Politics has been a significant part of his working life. A smoldering interest in politics became action in the Regina-Rosemont constituency. Gord bought a Progressive Conservative membership, tossed his hat in the ring – and got elected in a Grant Devine led landslide election. Soon he was Legislative Secretary to Devine – and soon thereafter Minister of Social Services and many other responsibilities. When re-election time came along, the Devine government was returned to power but Regina-Rosemont went another way.
Soon thereafter, the Klein revolution happened in Alberta, and Gord was hired as Assistant Deputy Minister of Corporate Services in the Social Services Ministry where he spent 3 years when he heeded the call back to ministry, first in Edmonton and then to Calgary where, today, Gord is still teaching and coaching, only these days it’s called preaching.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… several key ones. Mom and dad. Dad was in the Navy, based in Newfoundland during the war. He was involved in coding. Even many years later he refused to tell me details, saying “I took an oath”. Running for School Board in Regina, 1 of 27 candidates for 7 spots. I felt the sorrow of loss, the full range of emotions! Giving my life to the Christ was a defining moment. Being successful in politics, the importance of public policy. There will ALWAYS be an agenda. Surviving severe illness at 29 (Crohn’s Disease) realizing my life was not my own. Dr. Ken Sauer, a high school teacher who influenced me on the importance of social policy.
I asked Gord how he sees the church and community services over the next 90 days
… continued growth. Evangelical churches like ours are holding their own, and we are growing.
Over the next 5 years?
… our traditional demographic is shrinking. A growing portion of the populations call themselves non-affiliates. Families are searching for influences. Immigration is an important part of that growth. We want to be helpful, to do what Jesus Christ calls us to do – to share the good news.
I asked Gord what qualities distinguish preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers.
… integrity. Quality of product, cost. We have an obligation to be careful in how we spend donated funds.
I asked what distinguishes him, why his employers have chosen him over others, what has accounted for his success?
… because they see, in my life, someone who is a person of integrity, someone with a record of service and effective leadership.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… Jesus said, don’t worry! I don’t worry about my life. But I’ll tell you what I care about. I care about justice and compassion issues. I care about my friend who is in hospital with cancer. I care about government debt. I care about our civic government, about our level of taxation. I care about flood-impacted families. I’m very concerned about Syria.
Work life balance?
… it requires a lot of discipline. I work out in my home gym, Joy and I travel, I watch a lot of sports (Rider pride!), walking
Best thing you did this summer?
… our church has been doing a lot of work helping flood victims, particularly in HighRiver. And, on vacation in Victoria, we attended a fabulous concert in the harbourfront, Symphony, bagpipes, fireworks
What are you reading?
… Calico Joe, a John Grisham novel, Witness to Power by David Gergen, The New Digital Age by Schmidt and Cohen, and a biography of John A. MacDonald, and lots of spiritual publications
… a 3 yr. old Prius during the week, my Yamaha FTR 1300 on weekend bike/road trips
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