Born here, raised here and tirelessly passionate about the place, Don has spent most of his adult life working to build Edmonton’s future. His experiences in the private, non-profit and public sectors have given him a well-rounded view of the diverse perspectives of this city, and the opportunities we have to make it better.
While earning his degree at the University of Alberta, Don worked through school washing dishes, cutting lawns and even spent a summer working in the oilpatch (blue coveralls included). Given his knack for tackling issues and engaging people, Don’s background in media comes as no surprise. Throughout his education, Don volunteered and worked at the Gateway, the U of A’s campus newspaper. In 2001, he was President of Canadian University Press in Toronto and chairman of Canadian University Press Media Services Ltd, a multi-million dollar national media and advertising services company. After two years, he was happy to return to Edmonton, where he served as business manager of the Gateway, making it the most financially successful campus newspaper in the country.
Don later served in government relations, supervising a staff of four, pursuing issues important to University of Alberta undergraduate students, including negotiations with Edmonton, St. Albert, and Strathcona County to implement a universal transit pass for students across the city.
During the same years, Don remained active in the community, serving as a volunteer with the University of Alberta, Canada25, the Alberta Debate and Speech Association, the Alberta Sailing Association, and as vice-president of the Malmo Plains Community League. As director of the Fifth Street Lofts Condominium Association, Don pushed for improved urban design in Edmonton’s warehouse district, which has since seen renewed investment and activity.
Don’s strong interest in civic issues, community life and urban development led him to run successfully for City Council in 2007. He was elected Mayor of Edmonton with a very strong mandate on October 21, 2013.
Over the past six years, Don has leveraged his pragmatism, creativity, and collaborative attitude in working to build the City of Edmonton. His command of issues and his passion for people have helped to address the increasingly challenging issues faced by Edmonton during a period of rapid growth and evolution. Don has been a leading voice for the Neighbourhood Reconstruction Program, working to reverse cuts in this area and bring about much-needed investment in rebuilding neighbourhood streets and sidewalks. He has pushed for strategic transportation planning integrated with our city’s neighbourhoods and future growth, and led the development of a 30-year vision for regional transit and the creation of a regional Smart Transit pass. Don has served as chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and currently chairs the Regional Transit Committee of the Capital Region Board, where he has fostered strong relationships with municipal leaders throughout the region.
Through his leadership on the Utility Committee, Don successfully brought in utility reform that places the focus on Edmontonians’ utility needs, rather than profit, helping to control the rising costs of utilities for families and businesses.
As council’s liaison to the City of Edmonton Youth Council and through his involvement with the Next Gen initiative, Don has engaged young people to help bring fresh ideas and programs to our city. He has also worked to strengthen Edmonton’s reputation as a centre of learning, championing the establishment of a school of Planning at the University of Alberta, serving on the Edmonton Public Library Board, and as the driving force behind Edmonton’s ‘City of Learners’ initiative.
With a longstanding interest in environmental protection and sustainability issues, Don was honoured when Mayor Mandel asked him to take a lead role on environmental initiatives. In this role, Don started an initiative to “green” the city’s many festivals, pushed for the development of an award-winning Environmental Strategic Plan and a Practical Green Buildings Plan, and led the push to convert street lights to LED lighting technology. These efforts are reducing the city’s environmental footprint as well as costs to taxpayers.
While working to build our growing city, Don has also juggled a growing family. Don and his wife Sarah Chan, a music teacher, have a 4-year-old son and a 1-year-old daughter. Don’s family is an enduring source of strength and inspiration as he pursues ways to make Edmonton more attractive and affordable for families. Don’s greatest aspiration for Edmonton’s future is to make it a place that his children and grandchildren will continue to choose to call home, with a strong economy and high quality of life.