If you don’t immediately recognize Michael Gurney, you’ll know him by his voice. He’s the man behind the mic as the emcee for events from the school district’s Christmas concerts to the Chamber of Commerce’s Business Excellence Awards to the fear-inspiring narrator (and author) of the annual Terror at the Cannery haunted house.
When he speaks, Gurney’s voice is both deep and theatrical, every word spoken as though it’s chosen with great care.
As president of the Prince Rupert Toastmasters Club, area director for northwest B.C. and coach for Kitimat, Gurney said he was initially a reluctant participant.
“It’s ironic and it’s a little bizarre to say I don’t like the limelight, because I often end up serving as master of ceremonies or making speeches,” Gurney said.
Gurney moved to Prince Rupert from the Lower Mainland in 2011 to work at the Port of Prince Rupert. With a background at BC Hydro and a national non-profit society, he is now a communications consultant.
He said his move came with some trepidation. “I’d heard wild stories about the fact that Prince Rupert enjoys parties,” Gurney said with a laugh.
But the celebrations he found and immersed himself in were of a different nature. He describes Prince Rupert with literary references.
“It’s that sense of interconnectedness that I found both surprising and immediately appealing,” he said. “Much like a mystery novel, you can begin to understand the stories and interwoven narratives that compose the fabric of this colourful community.”
Off the clock, Gurney has three main passions that can be found in all he does: creativity, historical consciousness and community enrichment.
“I try to look for opportunities to combine these three things. Helping other people connect the dots with respect to stories or respect to history. Finding ways to support people as they themselves enrich the community. In all of that, expressing creativity.”
One of the ways he fulfils his mandate is through mentorship. Gurney’s name has appeared in previous Northern View Heart of Our City profiles, notably Erik Langille who praised his mentor.
Gurney said this role was inspired by the people who were fundamental in his life when he was young.
“I realized at that time in my life that these were very impressive individuals, not only for their accomplishments and their intelligence but also the fact that they were willing to take time to listen to a young person like myself and then to engage. At the time, in my innocence and my foolishness, I still was smart enough to say ‘When I’m a grown-up, I want to be that kind of person for other young people,’” Gurney said.
“It’s wonderful to be able to remember a promise you declared to yourself from decades ago and then follow through on that. Of course, the result is seeing an investment in young people and young business people and young leaders really flourish.”
Gurney also serves on the board for the Port Edward Historical Society, which oversees the North Pacific Cannery. He’s been involved in Harbour Theatre productions — on and off stage — the Northwest Regional Heritage Fair and his work with the Kaien Island Trail Enhancement Recreation Society involves planning and rebuilding literal connections through a trail system.
But Gurney requests not to be called this week’s Heart of Our City. He sees himself more as an artery to the heart.
“I just carry blood vessels from those places in this body of people — our community — to places where the work is being done.
“I realized that life wasn’t just about doing things well. The thing that endures is relationships. And the only thing that we can really invest ourselves in of lasting importance is other people,” Gurney said. “The greatest joy I have in my life is working in concert with other people to achieve great things.”
This volunteer doesn’t have plans to drop the mic anytime soon.