This is fourth in a series of profiles of Surrey city councillors elected on Oct. 15.
Raised in a politically-minded family, and son of a former Surrey mayor, Gordon Gregory Hepner was probably destined for a life in office.
But he wasn’t so sure until this year when, nearing his 50th birthday, he decided to run for Surrey city council on the Surrey Connect slate of mayor Brenda Locke, placing fourth among the 56 candidates.
He’s now the second Hepner on council over the past two decades, following in the footsteps of mother Linda Hepner. She was first elected in 2005, then elevated to the mayor’s chair for a four-year term starting in 2014.
Before running this fall, Gordon Hepner weighed the impact an election win would have on his work as notary public and life as a single father of two growing, sports-loving boys.
“Politics has been a very big part of my life,” Hepner said. “I didn’t like the direction the city was going in with closed chambers and the lack of transparency that was evident under the previous government’s tutelage.”
Born in Manitoba and raised for a time in rural Alberta, Hepner moved with his parents to Surrey in the mid-1980s when he was 11 years of age.
He hated it here.
“I mean, I was a flat-lander, man,” he recalled with a laugh. “It took me about three months to decide that this is a place nobody should ever leave.”
Following graduation from Semiahmoo Secondary, Hepner went to university, worked in the mortgage business, studied law and eventually settled into the notary public profession.
From a young age, Hepner was “an old soul,” his mother remembered.
“He’s an only child, and we used to have dinner conversations around events that were going on, and neither his dad nor I were shy about voicing our opinions and thoughts about how things need to be or look or change, whatever,” said Linda Hepner, who worked at Surrey city hall when the family first moved here, in corporate services.
“So, early on, Gord knew a lot about what was going on in the city, the various councils of the day, so he was probably inundated way more than he, or anyone, would have ever wished.”
Still, Linda was “a little surprised” that her son ran for office, due to his other commitments in life.
“But I know how passionate he is about the city,” she said, “and I know that he was hearing in the community, because he’s a coach, he was hearing the Surrey jokes again, and that wasn’t going to hold water with him for long.”
Asked to describe her son, Linda said Gord is pragmatic.
“He has a tendency to care – like, he really cares, sometimes too deeply,” Linda explained. “He needs to de-stress, because he has a little bit of wanting to make sure that he has looked at a problem from every angle and do the right thing.”
With the new council now meeting, grandmother Linda has been tasked with occasional late-night care of Gordon’s sons, Duke, 10, Caine, 13. They live in the South Surrey area, where Hepner’s notary corporation, Cammack Hepner, does business.
For now, Gordon has stepped back from coaching his kids hockey and lacrosse teams.
A few years ago he gave up another sport, motocross, following a bad crash. When the bike of another rider landed on him, the impact broke Hepner’s collarbone and “destroyed” his right shoulder. That was in 2009, in Agassiz.
“That was a big hobby of mine,” Hepner said with a sigh. “I’d still be racing motocross to this day had I not severely damaged my shoulder. I had a YZ450 racing bike with, like, $2,000 suspension on it, and gear that if you added it all up, I’d be wearing $3,000 of equipment, right. I was that into, with the trailer, the works.
“I miss it,” he added. “It’s the one thing I wouldn’t encourage my children to do, though, because it’s a dangerous sport.”
On council, Hepner’s goal is to “steer away from the last government’s reputation,” and make the best decisions for residents.
“That’s it,” he underlined. “I mean, I hope that I can follow suit with my mother’s good governance, but I don’t think I’ll ever be as thorough as she was. I’m hoping to, hoping to ask the right questions, and hoping that people can trust us. Not everybody is going to like ya.
“The thing that I’m hoping to do is simply to make Surrey a better place to live.”