The learning curve has been steep, but his business acumen has proved invaluable for rookie Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo as he made the transition from municipal politics to the provincial political scene in 2013.
Now, with just over six months under his belt, Kyllo describes the experience as fantastic, especially in terms of the support and commitment from his B.C. Liberal colleagues.
Kyllo had a tough act to follow, being elected to the post after longtime MLA George Abbott, who was well respected both by constituents and within the Liberal Party structure. Abbott held key posts in the government including Minister of Health and Education.
But Kyllo’s abilities in business with Twin Anchors Houseboats and the more recently formed TA Structures have also caught the attention of the upper echelons of the party. While not given a cabinet post, Kyllo has been named to many high-profile committees including the Treasury Board, the Core Review, Strong Economy and Public Accounts.
“I think my work in my company has given me a different perspective, in that in business you are always thinking about the most effective way to spend your money. So for me it really comes back to asking: ‘Is this how I would spend my own dollars?’ That’s what I would ask my employees when we were looking at purchases and that’s how I view spending the taxpayers’ money. I ask myself, ‘If I was personally accountable for this bill, is this what I would do?’
Kyllo has experienced the pronounced difference between operating a private company versus getting things done in public life.
“There’s a lot of protocols, a lot of difference in the amount of time it takes to move things forward. As a business owner, I was used to making decisions quickly and seeing results immediately and I took a lot of personal satisfaction out of that. Now, in this role, you are truly more a director and you have to take a longer view. I’m learning to find satisfaction in that now.”
Kyllo says another change from municipal politics has been the shift in the scope of issues.
“After living in Sicamous for 30 years, I had a pretty good handle on all the issues and concerns locally, and a well developed personal perspective on where the community needs to go. That’s hard to do on the provincial side, because the issues are so varied, especially when it comes to things like health, education and social issues. It’s a lot to absorb. My colleague, (MLA) Todd Stone, said it was like trying to drink out of a fire hose. I think that’s the best description.”
Another adjustment for Kyllo has been the amount of travel between Victoria, Vancouver and Sicamous.
“I’m in Vancouver three to four days a week, as most of the committee work is done there to be as efficient and cost-effective as possible. The public has the perception that when the house is not in session, we’re not working, but really the heavy lifting gets done through the committee work.”
Kyllo says a rewarding part of the job has been helping individual constituents out with issues, because when they come to his office they are often at their last resort. Another big accomplishment was working towards the announcement of the $3 million bridge upgrade at Hummingbird Creek.
“That situation has been challenging for so many years, that it was wonderful to work to a solution. That project should be designed in the spring with construction later in the year.”
The biggest challenge he sees for the future is in expanding the Shuswap’s economic base.
The father of four grown daughters, Kyllo says it hurts to hear people in the riding talking about their children who have moved away due to a lack of employment opportunities.
“It needs to be more diverse. We need to foster tourism, but we need manufacturing, industry that can provide those year-round, high-quality jobs. I’m like many of us in the Shuswap. I want my kids to be able to find gainful employment right here, rather than feeling like they have to move elsewhere to get ahead,” he said.
“My wife and I, we’re anticipating our first grandchild in the new year and I sure want to be able to see that baby a whole lot. It would break my heart if they were to move far away because they had no choice.”
Despite his concerns, Kyllo is optimistic about 2014.
“I think there was a lot of uncertainty in the past few years, a lot of projects put on hold, but now we on track to growing the economy and moving this province forward,” he said. “By creating a framework with our policies and taxation to allow the province to grow and prosper, with that comes jobs… In my mind a healthy community is a working community.”