Gardner, a native of the Rideau Tay area, spent 25 years as a senior public servant with the Ontario Government including periods as deputy minister in two portfolios. He specialized in local governance and urban policy, teaching and researching urban issues at the graduate level at the Faculties of Environmental Studies at York and Waterloo Universities. He served two terms as Planner in Residence at the University of Waterloo. As a public policy consultant, he executed several projects in Canada and overseas including guiding several urban amalgamations. He was the first CAO of the amalgamated City of Kingston. In retirement, Gardner was active in start-up firms in the fields of food aid, small scale building systems, small cap commercial mortgages and mental health. He now lives at Otty Lake with his wife Linda.