A former premier and current Lamont County resident is being honoured by the province.
In June of 2020, Ed Stelmach was informed he was going to be inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence (AOE). This is the highest honor the provincial government can award a citizen and recognizes Albertans who have made an outstanding provincial, national or international impact.
The AOE ceremony is usually held in October at the Government House in Edmonton, however, it had to be postponed due to complications with COVID-19 restrictions.
"When you live most of your life through some sort of political position, it's rewarding to think that there are still people that are your friends even after you've finished with politics," Stelmach laughed. "It's incredibly humbling to be added to this long list of exceptional Albertans."
Stelmach was born in 1951 and raised on a farm near Lamont. He is the youngest of five children and the grandson of Ukrainian farm immigrants. He didn't learn English until grade school.
Spending time at the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate Hospital in Mundare after breaking his leg as a young child contributed to his appreciation for faith-based community health care. Stelmach attributes his time in the hospital to teaching him the value of volunteerism and community.
When he graduated from school, he attended the University of Alberta with the intention of becoming a lawyer.
He married his high school sweetheart and fellow U of A student Marie Warshawski in 1973. They ended up back to the original Stelmach family homestead to operate the farm, where they raised their family.
Stelmach's first step into politics was joining Lamont County's council in 1986. A year later, he was appointed as reeve before making his entry into provincial politics.
In 1993, Stelmach was elected as the MLA for the Vegreville-Viking constituency, a position he held for five terms. Over the years, he was the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Infrastructure, Transportation, and International and Intergovernmental Relations.
He was then elected as Premier of Alberta in 2006, winning one of the Progressive Conservatives' largest electoral victories.
Stelmach was the first premier of Ukrainian origin and only the second person of Ukrainian descent to be elected premier of a Canadian province.
"You can't achieve anything of significance on your own. There are people behind you; you're supporters, your family and the campaign team," he said. "It kind of tugs at your heartstrings because you want to repay that."
According to the AOE, one of the hallmarks of Stelmach’s leadership style is that he listens. He ran on a platform of respect and integrity and was known for his consistent ability to bring disparate groups and points of view together and to find a win-win solution for all.
"You treat people with respect, you're going to get it 10 times back," Stelmach explained. "No matter what anybody says, if you're successful, it's because you surrounded yourself with good people. Also being at the right place at the right time."
Some highlights of his time as premier include the 10-year plan to end homelessness, Alberta’s first-ever climate change strategy, interprovincial free trade agreements with British Columbia and Saskatchewan, and improving transparency and accountability in government.
He retired from provincial politics in 2011.
Stelmach has dedicated more than 40 years (and counting) to public service, including more than 25 in municipal and provincial politics. He has received many awards over the years and is still a big volunteer in his community, his work now focusing on leading Covenant Health and the Ed Stelmach Community Foundation.
The inductees for 2020:
- JudyLynn Archer of Edmonton
- Jim Boucher of Fort McKay
- Charlie Fischer of Calgary
- Frances Harley of Edmonton
- John Mah of Edmonton
- Holger Petersen of Edmonton
- Ed Stelmach of Andrew
The inductees for 2021:
- Joan Donald of Red Deer
- Cyril Kay of Edmonton
- Murray McCann of Calgary
- Barb Olson of Calgary
- Merle Olson of Calgary
- Greg Powell of Calgary
- Cor Van Raay of Lethbridge
- Lena Heavy Shields-Russell (Ikkináínihki) of the Blood Reserve