Picture it: a man standing in the Uluru car park on a Friday evening in late April. The reason for his being there: waiting for his canvassing team to assemble as he begins his quest for a Waterford City Council seat. The man in question: Gary Wyse.
“I stood there in the car park before we hit the doorsteps for the first time and I asked myself ‘what I am doing here?’” said a laughing Councillor Wyse while sipping on his coffee.
“I’d never had had any major political aspirations; had never even been to a count until I was standing there in June, the day of my daughter’s communion. Yet here I am – a member of Waterford City Council and I’ve enjoyed every second of it so far.”
So how did running for City Hall come about and why choose Fianna Fáil when the party is at one of the lowest polling ebbs in his history?
“Well, first of all, people know me from business down through the years so getting out there and meeting people and talking about what needs to be done and how I think I could help was one part of putting my name forward which didn’t faze me at all,” he said.
“A lot of people, including many of those who know me very well, did question the wisdom of allowing myself to go forward as a Fianna Fáil candidate; in fact many suggested I should run as an independent.
“But me being me, I opted for the hard road and I was happy to run as a Fianna Fáil candidate for many good reasons.
“First of all, we’ve got a Minister and a Deputy from the city, both of whom have been more than willing to offer me advice and support right from the get-go.
“And I have to say that both (Martin Cullen and Brendan Kenneally) have been fantastic pillars of support for me – support I wouldn’t have had if I’d gone as an independent.”
That first night of canvassing, in the company of Tom Cullen (Martin’s father) was a real step into the unknown for Gary, as he knocked on door after door in Ballinakill Downs.
“I’d expected to cop a lot of flak being a Fianna Fáil candidate, which goes with the territory when looking at the national picture at the moment,” he added.
“But it was nothing like what I expected. Sure, there was some criticism of the party offered to me by some people, but the vast majority of those I listened to and spoke with weren’t foaming at the mouth and were willing to hear me out. I was a bit chuffed, to be honest.
“A reporter working for a national newspaper came out on a canvass with me one night and was quite surprised to discover that there I was, a Fianna Fáil candidate, not getting lacerated on every single doorstep. Apparently, that made me a fairly rare breed!”
As a self-employed man for almost 25 years, Gary’s average working day runs from 7.30am to 7pm, six days a week. Happily married with four children, it’s difficult not to admire his willingness to enter public life given how busy he already was prior to June.
“Since I was elected, I’ve tried to make sure that I deal with three issues daily as a Councillor,” he added.
“If I didn’t take that approach, I’d just end up with a backlog of work that’ll take forever to get through, so that element of discipline is essential, in my view.
“I’ve already seen what happens in politics when you don’t deal with things at the appropriate time – just take the motions which Councillors table for the monthly meetings, for example.
“There are stacks of motions that Councillors have put forward in the past few months that have yet to be dealt with, which is enormously frustrating and that suggests to me that we’ve got to come up with a better way of getting through matters when we meet.”
But that’s not to say he’s not getting things done. Quite the opposite, in fact.
“Achieving for people doesn’t have to be headline making stuff,” he said. “A few weeks back, there were street lights out on an estate – one of the residents called the ESB and was told the matter would be dealt with within 10 days. That didn’t sound right to me.
“So I rang the ESB and much to the residents’ delight, the job was actually done the next day. If that shows anything, then it demonstrates that Councillors can get practical things done quickly. And to me, that’s public service. That’s what we’re there for.”
A glass half-full kind of guy by his own admission as well as a thoroughly engaging individual, Gary Wyse is clearly relishing political life.
Something tells me that standing in the Uluru car park before a single doorbell was sounded a few short months ago will soon feel like a distant memory.