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Executive secretary announces resignation

November 8, 2016 Cory Hare, ATA News Managing Editor

Gordon Thomas to retire Jan. 31, 2018

Gordon Thomas has announced that he’ll retire from his position as executive secretary of the Alberta Teachers’ Association as of Jan. 31, 2018.

Thomas announced his decision to members of Provincial Executive Council and Association staff on Oct. 20. The Association is now recruiting for the position in the hope of having a replacement in place Jan. 1, 2017. That timeline is designed to allow Thomas to work closely with his successor for a full year before he leaves, which is the same process that he experienced when he took over from Charles Hyman in 2003.

Exclusive club

The Alberta Teachers’ Association has had seven executive secretaries in its nearly 99-year history.

John Barnett 1920  –1946
Eric Ansley  1946  –1958
Stanley Clarke  1959  –1968
Bernard Keeler 1968  –1988
Julius Buski  1988  –1998
Charles Hyman  1999  –2002
Gordon Thomas  2003  – present

Note: L. D. Hyndman was acting general secretary during the last few months of 1958, and Nykolay Hrynyk was acting executive secretary in 1974/75 while Keeler was on sabbatical

“It just provides, in my view, the best possible transition,” Thomas said.

Originally from Lethbridge, Thomas began his career in education in 1977, teaching social studies and drama at Sturgeon Composite High School in Namao. He joined the Association in 1984 as an executive staff officer in Professional Development.

Currently 61, Thomas said the timing of his departure comes at a good time for the Association, given that the provincial government is in the middle of its term, and a new PEC will be in place prior to his departure, but he stressed that his decision to leave is a personal one.

“In some respects my mother’s death this past April helped me crystallize some of this. You think a bit about the time left,” he said.

“I’ve been here a very long time and I’ve enjoyed it very much. I have enormous respect for the profession, for our members, for the people I work with, the governance of the ATA, but you also get your turn at retirement, so in that respect I’m ready.”

Thomas said he’s looking forward to starting a new chapter, which will involve a lot more reading, cooking lessons, woodworking and travel. Topping his travel list are Amsterdam and Rome, as he has a daughter living in each city, as well as more frequent visits to a residence that he and his wife own in Palm Springs.

“I suspect the first few months of retirement may consist of stuff like that, just kind of sitting like a blob somewhere and sleeping in a lot,” he said.

Association president Mark Ramsankar said Thomas is valued for his extensive knowledge of ATA history and his ability to build solid relationships with senior bureaucrats outside the organization.

“I think Gordon’s contribution has been tremendous,” Ramsankar said. “He’s a stabilizing force at the provincial level.”

For Ramsankar, Thomas’s main strength lies in how he works with those around him.

“Gordon has helped me do this job but he’s allowed me to be myself,” Ramsankar said. “He’s got a way of allowing people to express their strengths — that is Gordon’s strength.”

Ramsankar also said, somewhat jokingly, that Thomas is viewed as the grandfather of the organization.

“When there is no other place, people will go to Gordon for an answer,” Ramsankar said. “You know you’re getting the straight goods.” ❚

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