BOOK REVIEW: Thin Power, Andy Marshall

Stella ConstanceThin Power

Andy Marshall’s Thin Power (Friesen Press) is an unauthorized biography of former mayor for the City of Calgary (1969-1977), Rod Sykes.

Book review by Stella Constance

Andy Marshall’s Thin Power (Friesen Press) is an unauthorized biography of former mayor for the City of Calgary (1969-1977), Rod Sykes. The book gives an overview of his achievements and controversies, primarily in the civic and provincial political arenas. It also gives the reader an inside view on the influences in his childhood and later as an adult that helped shape his bold perception and interactions with the people around him.

Andy Marshall uses his talent as a former writer with various Alberta daily newspapers to provide the reader with an intimate exploration into Sykes’ past, highlighting Sykes’ intriguing private interactions and diverse relationships with many prominent leaders of the time, ranging from Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to the Royal Family. Andy Marshall also served as a staffer for part of Rod Sykes’ term as mayor for the City of Calgary, and later when Sykes served as a leader of the Alberta Social Credit Party.

The book acknowledges Rod Sykes’ popularity amongst Calgary voters, through his appeal to common voters in making City Hall accessible to Calgarians. He built a reputation of protecting the interests of disadvantaged or targeted individuals in municipal affairs. As a former accountant, he also attempted to bring fiscal accountability to civic departments and agencies. In addition, he brought forth one of the earliest civic policies of equal opportunity hiring. He went further to protect the interests of long-term employees, by helping to create the city’s pension plan. However, it was his frequent adversarial communications and methods of achieving his goals of updating the aged civic structure that caused the most controversies, resulting in the often strenuous relations he had amongst various city departments and agencies, including the Calgary Stampede Board.

Marshall’s informal, personal approach to writing Sykes’ biography engages the readers as he delves into Sykes’ tumultuous past. The unauthorized biography gives readers a glimpse into a “behind the scenes” view of civic, provincial and national politics, with the personalities and relationships that shaped the times. Marshall helps bring more understanding to their lasting legacies seen today.

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