Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling is his usual modest self when he describes being chosen as one of Alberta’s 50 most influential people by Alberta Venture magazine.
“It’s gratifying to be recognized, particularly in the City’s 100th year. This recognition is testament to Red Deer’s place in the province and in the hearts of residents, and an honour the entire community can share,” said Flewwelling.
“However, the thought that comes uppermost to me, is that this is an award for being influential, as opposed to accomplishing. I’ve accomplished a lot of things, call them achievements, it’s kind of like getting a prize. You move from the person who does something, to the person working on the vision and getting other people to accomplish things.
“As a mayor I don’t actually have a lot of power, but I have a lot of influence. I learned that when I was appointed a member of the University of Alberta Senate. It’s an appointed body with no authority. You can’t do anything directly, but it has enormous influence. When they inquire into something, or shine the light on something, then it happens.
“As mayor I can’t say you must do this, but I can say, ‘Maybe we should look into this,’ and people do it. So one has to be very careful about one says, because if you share that thought it might get picked up by the media, or your colleagues, and it might happen. I see the award as recognizing that I have a track record in this community, in this province, in this country, and that’s where the influence comes from.”
The recognition is the latest in a long list of accolades for Red Deer’s retiring mayor. In 1997 he received the Order of Canada, in 2002 the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for distinguished volunteer service and in 2005 the Alberta Centennial Medal: only the highlights from a long list.
There’s an even longer list of the organizations he’s helped found, organize, mentor, lead or serve with. Name a local organization, be it the Ellis Bird Farm or Habitat for Humanity or the Piper Creek Foundation, and you will find His Worship’s name connected to it in some way.
“I haven’t done it alone. Sometimes you’re the chairman, sometimes you’re the president, sometimes you’re just waving the flag. You take the position and you use it to shape whatever is going to happen.”
Asked about the organization that he’s most happy about influencing, he cites the Red Deer District and Community Foundation. “And that’s a bit of a sleeper, because it isn’t visible. I could have said the Arts Centre at the college, because it’s a monument … it was seven years of my life … and that was influence, going all over Central Alberta to build support for the Arts Centre. The same with saving the Cronquist House … but I think the Community Foundation is the most significant with the most lasting legacy.
“It is there to build this community and it will go on forever. The Arts Centre will fall down eventually but the Foundation will only grow and become more influential as more and more people subscribe to it. If I hadn’t had that fabulous opportunity to start it, it might never have happened. I’d been fundraising (for various causes) for years and I was always envious of communities where they would say, ‘Well, we got our first five thousand from our community foundation.’ Once you got the first five thousand, you get the ball rolling and influence radiates like ripples in a pond.”
Flewwelling was first elected as a City councillor in 1974, and is serving his third and final term as mayor. Along with Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel (who is also retiring) he is the dean of Alberta mayors. “I’m the godfather,” he says, with a laugh.
Alberta Venture cites Flewwelling’s leadership in making the City more culturally diverse, his involvement in the City’s Centennial activities, and his 2012 Alberta Museums Association Lieutenant Governor’s Award as factors in making the top 50.
The magazine releases a yearly list of Alberta influencers based on their ability to shape opinion and action. Teachers, politicians, bankers, musicians and entrepreneurs are among the notables on this year’s list.