In a world of ever-changing technology, Gary D. Hyla, Database Administrator & President of Local 2567, has seen many significant changes in IT, (Information Technology), over his 36 years with Erie 1 BOCES. Yet, there are two main consistent themes throughout his lifetime that have continued to resonate to this day: the importance of education and the passion to “give a voice to people who can’t speak up for themselves.” We look back on Gary’s career and union activism as he celebrates his retirement this month.
Gary was raised on the eastside of Buffalo and did not have an easy childhood growing up. He was surrounded by negative influences. However, through hard work and determination he persevered. At the age of 16 he was the first person in his family to learn how to drive and even own a car. Though he didn’t have an easy life, he appreciates the strong work ethic he developed from having to work for everything he had.
He credits his involvement as a teenager, with the Boy Scouts of America, with helping steer him in a positive direction. At the age of 13, a friend of his who was in Scouts, talked him into joining. As a gift from his parents, for graduating 8th grade, he received an opportunity to attend a BSA high adventure base camp in New Mexico, Philmont Scout Ranch. The expedition crew, (group of 3 adults and 12 Scouts), experienced injuries and all leaders became incapacitated, within the first 7 to 8 days, leaving the youth to venture on by themselves and complete the final two to three days of the trek.
With a day to go in the trek, the remaining youth decided that they would not proceed and all agreed to be transported back to base camp. That is, all but Gary, who did not give up on his journey and struck out alone, deciding to walk the remainder of the trek himself, if need be. He ended up walking alone, following the trail in a remote area, for the next couple of hours before catching up to another crew he was not affiliated with, who allowed him to join their crew and experience climbing the “Tooth of Time”, a famous site at Philmont. He finished the trek because of his determination, even at that young age, as well as because “he is not a quitter.”
Gary whipped through the BSA position/rank requirements, earning merit badges in Eagle-rank required areas, as well as areas that interested him. At the age of 17, he earned his Eagle Scout rank/badge, a nationally recognized award, and the highest honor bestowed by the Boy Scouts of America. An award/rank/honor that very few ever achieve. He continues his volunteer work with Scouts BSA to this day, since he believes in their mission to promote citizenship development and prepare the next generation of youth to make ethical and moral choices. He also has the distinct honor of having his son earn his Eagle rank/honor, thirty years to the day that he received his honor. (1/17/1974 and 1/17/2004-also his last day of work, 1/17/2023)!
After attending Hutch-Tech HS, in the city of Buffalo, Gary went on to attend Rochester Institute of Technology, pursuing a degree in Computer Science. This was at a time when computer-related students used punched paper cards, paper tape, floppy disks and lined green and white paper to generate their reports and complete their school work. Upon his graduation from college, his dream was to start a new life on the West Coast, but no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t afford to make this major move. Instead, Gary ended up staying in Buffalo and meeting the love of his life. Gary and his wife Barb will be celebrating 35 years of marriage, in May of this year, (2023).
After meeting his wife, Gary found out about Civil Service exams. With no other leads, Gary set out to take all of the civil service exams, (8 of them at the time), relating to computer-related positions in Erie County. He eventually was canvassed for several positions within Erie 1 BOCES, starting his career with BOCES as a computer programmer, and because of his strong work ethic, continued on a promotional track to Jr. Systems Software Specialist, Systems Software Specialist and ultimately as a Database Administrator. Gary used his initiative and attended training in DataBase Management Systems, becoming the de facto expert in the topic. He could trouble shoot from any point and come up with solutions using the resources at his disposal.
BOCES is an organization that provides educational programs and services to area school districts, offering K-12 programs, adult career training, administrative services and instructional support. The BOCES model is unique since it includes a concentration of experts in one place, the Regional Information Center. Gary has worked at the Western New York RIC, (WNYRIC), for his entire career with BOCES and likes this model, since it allows districts to share resources and do things they could not do on their own. Not to mention by utilizing BOCES resources, the school districts are eligible for NY State funding, as well as for education and education-related services/equipment.
While working at BOCES, he and his wife raised three children. His proudest accomplishment is being an actively involved father. Something he did not have growing up. He emphasized the importance of education to his children. He’s “so proud” that all three of his children are four-year college graduates. Gary’s son has already achieved a PhD in Chemistry and in the near future his youngest daughter will become a medical doctor. His middle daughter is well accomplished in the business world.
Gary’s second passion, beyond education, is to assist people by giving them a voice when they can’t/won’t speak up for themselves. During his workdays, he noticed that many employees had trouble advocating for themselves. In July of 2000, he saw an opportunity to step into a leadership position after the then-elected President stepped down. After a short period of a couple of weeks, Gary was approached and asked to fill the vacant position. He was initially appointed interim President of Local 2567 and the next year Gary was elected to that full-time position.
During his time as President, he has worked tirelessly to bring about positive change for all 12- and 10-month employees. About fifteen years ago, he successfully negotiated family health care for all 10-month employees (who had previously only received single coverage). As a condition of that benefit, all 10-month employees had to form their own local union. Gary helped to create an executive board for the current AFSCME Local 2341, identifying potential officers and speaking to them to get them to volunteer to run for much needed positions in this new arm of AFSCME. Furthermore, in the last contract that Gary negotiated, (2019-2023), he fought to ensure that all members were paid at least $15 an hour. “Some members don’t have the ability to stand up for themselves so I use my position to stand up for them.”
Because of the transformative impact that a college education had on his life, he implemented the AFSCME Local 2567 Family scholarship program. Yearly, the program provides two college scholarships to children of Local 2567, who are graduating HS Seniors. All member’s children who completely apply for this scholarship are also awarded a stipend, if they are not the successful recipients of this scholarship. The local also provides six scholarships per year to students in BOCES programs including career and technical education, special education and alternative learning. These scholarships help to lighten the financial burden of those students making the transition from high school to college, or trade school(s), in our core BOCES programs.
In order to bring camaraderie and fun to members, he has created/coordinated the last seven “Food Truck Rodeos”, which occur for the majority of his local’s members, at the beginning of each school year. He has also coordinated and led the General Member meeting, occurring in November, in each of the last 22 years; just before Thanksgiving Day. The makeup of these meetings is information distribution, gift card giveaways and delicious dinners for all, to help celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. “Both events are second to none in bringing members together” says Dan DiClemente, AFSCME Council 66 President.
In 2021, because of his tremendous union leadership he received the prestigious AFSCME Council 66 Leadership Award. The award is given to a person who is consistently working above and beyond every year to make sure their members are fairly represented.
Dan DiClemente highlights Gary’s lifetime contribution to the union: “Gary Hyla is a person who has fought for his members to gain excellent contracts. He is never one to shy away from asking a question in an effort to make certain all members are benefitting from the dues they pay to the union. He is a good friend to all who have had the privilege of knowing him and will be missed dearly at BOCES.”
Gary hopes “that all lives I have touched, remember me fondly.” Gary will be remembered as a relentless, extraordinarily effective champion for workers. His legacy will endure through educational doors opened and lives forever changed, because Gary always used his voice to speak up for his members.
We’ll miss you Brother Hyla! Good luck in your future endeavors!
Best to you and your new found freedom 🙂
Hey Gary, This is Cale. I read the synapse of your career. As an old friend of yours from the neighborhood, I am happy what you accomplished with your life. It could have been so much different. Anyway, congratulations on a fine career and enjoy your retirement. Your friend, Cal
Grew up with Gary And Had Some Wonderful and Wild Times…Was Always Laughing And Having A Good Time…It’s An Honor To Be A Friend And To Hear Of All His Professional Accomplishments….God Bless You On Retirement See At Dyngus Day Celebration….Great Memories….
Didn’t know about all your boy scout accomplishments but do remember that laugh,have a great retirement