SOMETIMES, it pays to do something different.

For Ian Wardle, it was a case of being somewhere different.

The former George Wimpey graduate trainee had spent years working across the North-East.

His time at Wimpey took in stints as a land manager and development director, before he was appointed project director for Sunderland’s Sunniside regeneration.

Later, he switched to local government with Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, working as head of regeneration services and latterly director of regeneration services, which included responsibility for front line and corporate services, and the delivery of large capital regeneration schemes.

But things took another turn when an offer to become Reading Borough Council’s managing director came along.

It wasn’t a straightforward decision.

Mr Wardle, who grew up in Houghton-le-Spring, had strong North-East roots and a family to think about.

He said: “I got approached about the Reading job, but I thought ‘it’s southern-based’.

“However, the recruiter said they would send some more information and that I would be surprised.

“There were some really deep-rooted issues, but also lots of opportunities, and I thought it looked a bit different, so I discussed it with my wife and thought ‘why not?’.”

Those issues included things close to Mr Wardle’s heart, not least the chance to help people enjoy better lives through improved housing and social provision.

But then it changed again.

He got another offer, this time to return to the North-East.

Mr Wardle had taken over as the Reading authority’s managing director in 2013, and had held the post until 2016 when he was alerted to a potential opening.

Landlord and developer Thirteen Group, which has offices in Stockton, wanted a chief executive to replace the departing Alison Thain.

For Mr Wardle, who is now a governor at Teesside University, it was an opportunity he couldn’t refuse.

Thirteen, formed in 2014 from the merger of Fabrick Housing Group and Vela Homes, provides housing for rent and sale.

It has more than 33,000 properties on its books, stretching from North Tyneside to York, with the majority in the Tees Valley.

That number should increase further, explains Mr Wardle, with plans in place for a new scheme of homes in County Durham for market sale.

He may only have taken over last year, but Mr Wardle, who was appointed secretary of the Homes for the North housing association alliance in April, feels right back where he belongs.

“When we went to Reading, I was desperately homesick, we all were,” he said.

“The first year was really tough.

“Someone sent me a link to the Thirteen job and I had a look.

“I realised then what the role was, the scale of it and how much of a difference I could make.

“If I hadn’t applied for the job, I would have regretted it.

“There is something about coming back to an area where you know people.

“There are people you have worked with who may be in the same organisations or have moved to different roles, but you can speak to them and it makes business easier.”

The organisation is supporting Durham’s Lumiere light festival, which takes place later this month.

Back for a fifth time, Lumiere will see artists from around the world illuminate the city.

Thirteen is a volunteer festival maker sponsor, and Mr Wardle said the choice was not by chance, citing Thirteen’s social principles.

He added: “We are big advocates of volunteering and want to support the volunteering element of Lumiere.

“We aren’t just a housing association.

“We help people facing homelessness and provide extra care for elderly people too.”

Five minutes with Ian Wardle

Favourite North-East building and why? The Redcar and Cleveland Community and Leisure Heart. I was part of the team that delivered it. I love the materials and the spaces and that it has so many uses – leisure, civic and business. Whenever I see it, it makes me smile.

What was your first job and how much did you get paid? I was a bank clerk with NatWest in its call centre at Team Valley, dealing with stolen cards. I got paid £5,222 pa.

What is the worst job you've had? A silver service waiter at the George Washington Hotel. I was useless, as I am quite clumsy.

What would you cook for me if I came around for dinner? A roast dinner – I’m a traditionalist when it comes to food. It's also the only thing I can cook.

What would your superpower be? The power to heal.

Name four people, dead or alive, who would be at your perfect dinner party: Henry Moore, the sculptor; Pat Barker, as I love her books; The Unthanks, because I love their music; and Barack Obama, since I love his ethics, what he did with healthcare and tried to do about guns.

Most expensive thing you've bought - other than car or house - and how much? A painting. I’m not telling you how much as I may get burgled.

Who is the best person to follow on Twitter and why??Donald Trump (or Mr Pump as my kids call him). It's just outrageous. I read it and just think it's all been a joke, and that someone will eventually say “here’s the real President.”

Favourite book? The Regeneration Trilogy, by Pat Barker.

When did you last cry? Only a few weeks ago. Our youngest, Fergus, who is three, shared with me that when he grows older he doesn't want to die and was asking why we die. I tried my best to explain without making him scared and he’s been okay about it. When he left the room though, I broke my heart.

What is your greatest achievement? My family.

What's the best piece of advice in business you've ever been given? Be true to yourself and treat others as you would want to be treated.

Favourite animal and why? Border Terrier. They’re loyal and they look so grumpy.

Most famous person on your mobile phone? A Government minister. I’m not saying which one though!

What was the last band you saw live? The Unthanks.

Describe your perfect night in: Family Wardle on the sofa watching television and eating rubbish.

In another life I would be... an artist. I bitterly regret not following my dreams of pursuing fine art. I decided I needed to be pragmatic and get a job.

Who would play you in a film of your life? When alive – Peter Sellers. I tend to have to be quite serious in my job, but I am also very silly when I let my guard down.

What irritates you? People with no moral compass.

What's your secret talent? My gut instinct is always right.