Citizen of the Year award holds special place in community-minded construction veteran’s heart

By Jon Waldman

When most people answer the phone in the year’s waning days, it’s to finalize New Year’s Eve plans or donate to their favourite charity. For Jack Brodsky,  one of the last conversations he had in 2023 was much different – it was CTV Saskatoon informing the Saskatchewan Heavy Construction Association (SHCA) board member that he was named Citizen of the Year.

Brodsky is the 57th individual recognized by CTV Saskatoon.

“It’s a huge honour, obviously,” Brodsky said. “I’m thrilled about it. I’ve received so many cards and phone calls, some from people I haven’t heard from in 30 to 40 years. It’s just been great.”

The award is even more meaningful because of Brodsky’s connection with the prize. 

“When I was in high school in the late 1960s, the very first Citizen of the Year was my French teacher,” Brodsky said. “I remember that the whole school was in the gym when the award was presented to him. I never thought I’d be that guy.”

The model for Brodsky’s contributions came from his family. The Brodskys first lived in Winnipeg and founded Brodsky Construction Inc. in the Manitoba capital, but they moved to Saskatoon when Brodsky was a teenager. Eventually, Brodsky’s father purchased the CHL’s Saskatoon Blades as his outlet for improving the community around him. While Brodsky started his community involvement in those early days working in construction, it was with the hockey club that Brodsky really found a calling in volunteerism. 

“When I was in high school in the late 1960s, the very first Citizen of the Year was my French teacher. I remember that the whole school was in the gym when the award was presented to him. I never thought I’d be that guy.”

– Jack Brodsky

“When I was in the construction business before, I did a little bit of community stuff, but once I took over the Blades, that’s when it really started to blossom… the opportunities came forward [to] have players get out in the community and be role models,” Brodsky said.

Those opportunities were numerous, but tied with a primary point of interest – spending time with kids directly involved in hockey or the greater Saskatoon community.

“The thing with the Saskatoon Blades is you have a bunch of young men who aspire to be great players,” he said. “We’re big on staying in school and getting their education, but there’s also a big opportunity to not only promote the hockey club but to get players out into the community – to hospitals, visiting kids, going to schools and minor hockey schools… we were getting the name of our hockey club out there and also able to do some good… ”

The most significant impact, perhaps, was not in the individual effort Brodsky made in his position with the Blades, but in how he inspired countless players through the group efforts that his team took on over the years.

“There were dozens. I was always very impressed,” Brodsky said. “These were kids between 16 and 20 years old that were playing on our team. Many of them, once they saw the opportunity, felt like they were doing some good in the world. Many took to it and continued after they were done with our club.”

A road of commitment

Hockey is just one of Brodsky’s outlets for his volunteerism. Before selling the original Brodsky Construction Inc. in 1996, he was involved with SHCA. When Brodsky Construction Inc. was re-established
in 2013, Brodsky reinvigorated his ties to the organization. 

“I’ve always felt that being at that level, you have an opportunity to talk to people in government… people who have say in things and influence, and [you can] make a difference. That’s always been my goal,” he said. “I just think it’s important that, if you’re going to try to be part of industry, you try to help make that industry be as good as it can be.”

That commitment is even more remarkable when considering the near 20-year departure from heavy construction meant Brodsky’s return came with changes that he had to adjust to. While others may have shied away from additional duties within their field, Brodsky felt that keeping close ties at the association level was integral despite the need to learn the new lay of the land quickly.

“In our industry, you get so busy doing the business itself that it’s hard to get involved in some of these things, [but] we get really good representation,” he said.  “We get a lot of young people on our board and [people] who want to contribute. It’s just really fun to be working with them.”

Brodsky’s current work with Brodsky Construction Inc. is largely in business development and ties in smoothly with his involvement in community organizations and work on various special projects. Along with his position with SHCA, Brodsky joined the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board’s board of directors in 2022 and previously served with the Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce. 

One of Brodsky’s proudest accomplishments is his work with the Restorative Action Program (RAP), including being a past chair. As described by the program’s organizers, Saskatoon Rotary, on their website, RAP “deals with bullying, physical violence, crime, mental health, substance abuse, and suicide and self-harm – with programming delivered to over 8,000 youth in Saskatoon schools.”

“For me, that’s been the biggest [accomplishment],” Brodsky said. “When I was a young fella in high school, life was a little bit complicated, but I think life is extremely complicated for kids now, so we’re helping them make a difference. It’s something I’m really proud of.”

Brodsky’s commitment to his community and province doesn’t end with the Citizen of the Year award. 

“I’m 71 now, and I don’t have the same energy I once had. But if [there are] things I can do to help out, I’m always willing,” he said. “I’ve always had a great feeling about helping youth out and giving them a leg up, so I’ll see where that takes me.”