Like father like son: Red Deer area Dreeshen family dedicates life to public service

There are three jobs that could be considered the Dreeshen family business: education, farming and politics.

Most recently Devin Dreeshen, the fifth generation of Dreeshen to farm their land near Pine Lake, was elected to political office. He was elected July 12 as a United Conservative Party MLA for the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake riding.

But long before Devin and his father Earl were elected representatives, Earl’s great-grandfather came to the area in 1903 and helped set up the first school in the area. Earl’s grandfather helped set up the next school and worked with the rural electrification associations that brought power to the area.

Both Earl and his father were chairs of the hospital board.

“I guess it’s sort of in one’s blood,” said Earl. “The community gives so much to everybody, and you need people who recognize that and are prepared to give back.”

Earl was a teacher before he made his foray into political office, first elected as the MP for the Conservative Party for Red Deer in 2008, then elected to Red Deer-Mountain View in 2015 when the ridings were redrawn.

It was in the Dreeshen home and at the dinner table that conversations started that got Devin interested.

From a young age, Devin was involved in Gary Severtson’s campaign, and he would attend Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta conventions. It was at these conventions where Devin first met Ralph Klein.

“There’s a photo of me and Ralph at a birthday party, I think I was nine or 10,” said Devin. “That was the kind of politician Ralph was. He cared about people, and I had a good relationship over the years. He was a great politician, but, more importantly, a great person.

“It was funny for us because there were so many times I was known as Devin’s dad by Ralph Klein,” said Earl. “As a parent you say ‘hey that’s OK,’ even if I was engaged in politics.”

Devin said he wants to emulate politicians like Klein, his dad and Gerry Ritz, the former federal agriculture minister. Devin worked in Ritz’s office starting through the Conservative Party internship program. After the internship he was offered a full-time position and Devin worked for the minister for eight years.

In that time, his major file was ending the single desk marketing of the Canadian Wheat Board.

But he also had a chance to work alongside his father.

“They’re cut from the same cloth,” said Devin. “They’re both humble guys, they’re very down to earth.”

Devin came to find a small family in the people he’d see at conventions over the years.

“There’s a core group of people that are almost family that you see once or twice a year and it’s always nice to catch up with them,” said Devin.

Devin became interested in public service by seeing the change he could actually make.

“I’ve always viewed politics as something you can give back and make a change in your community,” said Devin. “The potential politics has is the biggest draw for me.”

Earl’s political life came from his work with the Alberta Teachers’ Association, health boards and agriculture organizations. He had a decades-long friendship with Bob Mills (Red Deer’s MP from 1993 to 2008), and they worked together in the early days of the Reform party.

Earl said he is thrilled for his son and his election win. Earl had just returned from a trip to Germany at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe meeting. He was tired after not sleeping on the plane

“He did so much work and had such commitment to do that,” said Earl. “For it to turn out as successful as it was, it made me happy.

“I saw the results come in and then you realize the hard work that Devin had put in for five months had shown up. That was very rewarding.”

Earl said Devin did it on his own.

“I made a point to stand back.”

Devin’s win means he will be the incumbent in the coming provincewide election, which should take place by the end of May 2019.

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