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Winnipeg’s next Mayor: Kevin Klein, problem solver

Dorothy Dobbie published a feature on Kevin Klein in Lifestyles 55.

As Published

The city I love and grew up in and took so much pride in is in a bit of a mess right now. For many years, it has lacked the heart and inspiration that a good leader can bring. Instead, successive mayors have let the city drift off into obscurity. Nationally it is not even on the map. The CTV national weatherman\woman just skips right over us when talking about Canada’s weather trends and we have been the butt of advertising jokes about even coming here.

It is time for a change, for a return to the leadership role we took for so many years in so many fields and the only way this will happen is for a real leader to come along and take over the reins as mayor. Kevin Klein is just that person.

Not only does Kevin bring four years as an active and concerned city councillor where his fertile brain probed into many areas of lethargy, misdirection, mismanagement, and questionable expenditures at the city, he brings vital experience as a corporate problem solver to the job.

You think of him as the former CEO of Sun Media Manitoba and publisher of the Sun, but some of North America’s top corporations see him as the solution to their corporate woes. They and other international companies have hired him to come in, study the situation and find answers to resolve their problems. How lucky can we get to have a man like this willing to serve us for the pittance we pay our councillors?

That Kevin has a fine intellect is just one of the qualities he brings to the table. Grit and determination, added to wide experience, are others. And he learned and earned these qualities the hard way, fighting for survival since he was just a kid, with the murder of his mother by her partner, and on his own for much of his young years even before that, sometimes living in shelters to get by. He started working at 16, doing summer jobs that included everything from being the hod carrier for bricklayers and the labourer for landscapers to bartending, waiting tables, and even planting trees for the forestry industry.

He doesn’t whine or complain about these early misfortunes, but he doesn’t flinch away from them either. He takes those experiences and applies them to his deep understanding of the world and tries to find solutions, eyes wide open to the many ills around him and in our city. Understandably, he is deeply concerned about homelessness and the hopelessness that fuels so much crime in Winnipeg, but he doesn’t stop there. He listens to problems. He looks for answers. He explores alternatives.

He applied these qualities to how he moved forward in his own life, deciding early that the best way to get something was to ask for it then work very hard to keep it. His mother, who had to live with her own traumas, instilled in him a fierce determination to never give up, never quit. She showed him her grit by graduating from nursing a short time before her death at 42.

When Kevin was just 19, he pursued his dream of being a broadcaster. “I used to watch WKRP in Cincinnati and decided that was exactly what I wanted to do,” he says.

Deciding is action with Kevin, so he went to a local radio station in Calgary and begged for a job. “I pestered the program manager so much that he finally gave in and let me have chance as the overnight disk jockey,” Kevin laughs. The rest is history. This humble beginning propelled him forward to ever more responsibility within the station and then on to management and eventually to the executive suite. He became the youngest publisher ever at Southam (now Post Media) in his early 30s.

When he came to Winnipeg, transferred here from his job in Ontario, he decided then and there that he would never leave. “Winnipeg was the first place where I ever felt at home,” he says.

This is how it happened that he went to work (as had dozens of other Winnipeggers in the past) for Peter Nygard, who offered him the position as vice president of Nygard’s biotech medical research company. Kevin accepted the job, but it took only four months for him to learn that this was not a person he wanted to be associated with let alone work for. “I learned quickly I could not work with Peter Nygard. I strongly, very strongly, disagreed with how he treated his employees,” said Kevin. Nevertheless, he met a lot of people during that short time, and he ended up working for some of them. He has worked for and learned from many of the country’s top business leaders as part of the executive team at Post Media, Sun Media, MTS and New Cap.

During this hectic life, Kevin met and fell in love, the first time as an 18-year-old, “too young to know what I was doing,” he says. But the result was a beautiful daughter, the mother of his three grandchildren today. He and his first wife remain friends. Then he fell again and this time there were two more children, but the marriage ended unhappily, and Kevin filed for divorce. He cherishes his two children from that union. Finally, about 15 years ago, he met Heather Churchill. They married and now and have a blended family of six kids, two dogs and those three lovely grandchildren.

Nor was Kevin’s life all about work and no play. Kevin is a long-time hockey coach, referee, and mentor for teens. He has a third-degree black belt in martial arts which he formerly volunteer taught to inner city kids. As a hockey dad, he served as president of the local amateur hockey board, and he brought his well-honed negotiating skills to his volunteerism as a referee. “I wanted to make sure we had a respectful atmosphere among the kids and their parents,” he says, recognizing how excited people could get during playoffs. Later, his eldest son took up football and was good enough to be signed by the Hamilton Tiger Cats to play in the CFL, although COVID-19 cut that career short. He decided to go back to school to finish his law degree.

Kevin loves old-time movies and TV shows. “Kevin is a huge fan of Gilligan’s Island,” says Heather, his constant companion. “He can sing the entire theme song – he loves to sing.” She laughs. “Don’t ask him to sing in public, though.”

“My middle name is Elvis,” smiles Kevin, who also confesses to being an avid fan of 80s music.

The Kleins love to travel and enjoy horseback riding. During COVID-19, Kevin took courses at the University of Alberta to learn more about his Metis and Cree background. His mother’s older brother, Uncle Dave, introduced him to his roots and helped him apply for and get his Metis membership card to express his pride in this heritage. His sons have also applied and received the card. Blond and blue-eyed Indigenous people were not uncommon among certain groups in middle America. His family says his roots are evident in his cheekbones which Kevin says he could never produce a proper beard!

Now, his corporate career behind him, Kevin wants to demonstrate his pride in his dearly adopted city. “Nothing bothers me more,” he says, “than to watch our city fall behind Calgary and Regina. I want to return Winnipeg to its rightful place ahead of all the others. My goal is to make Winnipeg once again the city everyone wants to live in.”

He has spent the past four years diagnosing our civic problems. He has discovered some shocking mismanagement even though, he says, “there are many, many smart and dedicated people working for the city who know what needs to be done.” He is determined to set those hard-working people free to fix the ills of Winnipeg, while he deals with the negotiations required to get the support, both legislative and fiscally, needed to make real change happen.

In his corporate life, his ability to hold people occupying power positions accountable and to negotiate changes to the corporate culture and the work ethics of these people is what led to his success. This is exactly what Winnipeg needs and it is what Kevin Klein will bring to the job as mayor.

Read about Kevin’s plan in the September issue of Lifestyles 55.


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