After 20 years as an executive, Conway's Linda Tyler heads to the state capitol as Representative for House District 45 By Colleen Holt
Upon her retirement, Linda Tyler was talking to a friend about turning the page into a new chapter of her life's book. The friend, however, saw it differently -- they saw a whole new book for this longtime executive turned Arkansas State Representative.
Linda, who recently turned 60, retired from Acxiom Corp. in October after 20 years of service. For this woman who has been working since she was age 6, a life of staying at home was not in the offing. In November, Linda finished a busy campaign season with a victory in the race for House District 45.
"I've been loving it," Linda said of the few weeks since her election. "The first time I walked into that building (the state Capitol) I thought 'This is where I need to be'."
Why Did She Run?
At age 55, Linda Tyler made the decision that in five years she would retire from her executive position at Acxiom Corp. A "big believer in planning," Linda began thinking about what she would do when the time came for her to retire.
"I thought about what retirement means," Linda said. "For me it didn't mean to stay at home. I've been involved in business and in the community, and I've seen that public policy and law is important to us and impacts us every day."Â
In her personal deliberations, Linda said she got a strange thought in her head. "It said 'You need to run for State Representative.' I said 'What?'" This message came through three or four times, and "then I really started thinking about it.Â I also have a strong faith and believe that I need to listen to those inner voices."Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
She finally mentioned it to her husband, Hugh Tyler, who was in support of her decision. "He said, 'That's what you should do," Linda said. "If he had said, 'Are you crazy?' it might have been different. But ever since I said it out loud, I've had a peace about it."
Linda said there are two distinct jobs to becoming a member of the Legislature: running/campaigning and serving.
"While campaigning wasn't second nature to me, I did grow into it,"Â Linda said. "I never had a problem asking people for something - asking for their vote and fundraising is harder, but it was comfortable."
Since the Election
The Friday after the election, Linda found herself at a House organizational meeting, where the Representatives for the 87th General Assembly chose lots for seniority. Linda said she got "a good number" in the seniority ranks and won spots on the Education, State Agencies, and Legislative Council committees. Since then, she has attendedÂ most budget meetings andÂ the committee meetings. She is also "reading everything I can read" in order to be prepared to make an educated decision on the various issues she will be considering in the Legislative session.
Linda said she intends to continue her heavy reading during the session and also take a lesson from her business career - talking to the people in the trenches, those who are "doing the work every day."
Also, Linda said that with over twenty yearsÂ in one company (Acxiom), she found thatÂ she was the oneÂ folks relied on for advice and counsel.Â Â Now, Linda said she will become adept at relying on her fellow legislators, "on the Legislative Research folks, all theÂ state agency folks andÂ building relationships with them."
Linda said new legislators rely heavily on the "second and third termers" (legislators who are in their second or final term). "They have already gone through one to two sessions.Â We're relying on them for information, for help. We go to them as experts."
How She Got Here
So how did Linda Tyler, a little girl from Lead Hill, Arkansas, get to be a big girl at the Capitol?
Linda grew up in Lead Hill (north of Harrison) after moving to Arkansas from Dallas. She didn't go to college right out of high school, so she marvels at the fact she is a state legislator now. "I've been given so many opportunities in my life," she said. "I've been so blessed. I've had some of the best jobs in the world, volunteered for some of the best agencies in the world."
She particularly hopes her success in her career and her election to the state Legislature will help other "little girls" realize they can do anything. "They can have everything they want, but not necessarily all at the same time," she said.
Linda said she grew up in a family that always worked. In Lead Hill the family had a combination cafÃ©, ice house, marine repair shop, and two-pump gas station. "We all worked. When I was 6 years old and big enough to push a chair up to a dishwasher, I was working."
Linda credits her association with customers at her family store with her ability to talk to anyone. She said she came to know "the barber, the postman, people of all walks of life. I can talk to everyone. Hugh says I can talk to someone for five minutes and get their life history. I just think people want to talk about themselves."
In her teens, Linda began working in the women's department of a store in Harrison. One day a customer in the men's department saw her and began asking questions of the shoe department clerk. This man - Hugh Tyler - got Linda's phone number and asked her out for a blind date. They were married five months later when Linda was 17 and Hugh was 24 in 1966.
Hugh and Linda were married for 20 years when they divorced in 1986. They remarried in 1990. Linda calls those four years "leave with credited service."
"It's like a different marriage," Linda says today. "We are so fortunate to have gotten back together. When we married the second time, we both knew there were things about each other that would get on our last nerve, but that's something we accept and know. Hugh is a very steady person, very calm."
The Tylers have lived in Conway for 40 years, arriving here when Hugh started to college on the GI Bill. He later began working at Virco Mfg. Corp., and retired from Virco eight years ago after 31 years of service. They have two children: Melissa, who owns a Pilates studio in Little Rock; and Doug, who has just recently moved back to Arkansas. Melissa was married in June and she and her husband Donell Burkett have two step-children, Gabe, 9, and Eve, 6.
Linda earned her college degree in stages, attending both full time and part time for seven years, not having started toward a degree until eight years after high school graduation. She earned a degree in business from the University of Central Arkansas in August 1980. "The funny thing is I realized that I was the same Linda Tyler the day before I graduated from college as the day after, but the doors started to open," she said.
The doors included beginning work for Carrier in June 1980, where she was hired to open a new plant in Maumelle. This job, she said, included creating the company's community development site selection handbook, which offered her experience in economic development. She later worked at United Broadcasting Corp. in Little Rock as Vice President of Administration, and then at Acxiom Corp. She retired from Acxiom as a Senior Organizational Development Leader.
From now until the beginning of the Legislative Session on Jan. 12, Linda plans to rest and prepare for the session. Looking farther into the future, she hasn't decided if she'll do anything else political, but she is hoping to spend three terms in the legislature so she can help get positive things done for District 45.
"Everything we do prepares us for the next step. I plan to draw on all that experience, all that networking," she said. "There will be 3,500 bills proposed in the session. That's a lot of bills. I plan to carve out an area where I want to make a difference and talk to the people whoÂ are the experts in it. If I can pass five or six really good bills for our district, I think I'll be doing fine."
And after that, perhaps she'll actually write that book - the one with the title "The Little Girl From Lead Hill."