Krista Hughes: George Pyle speaks as a man from the cheap seats and never in the arena

(Al Hartmann | Tribune file photo) Greg Hughes takes the oath of office to become the next speaker of the Utah House of Representatives at the start of the 2015 legislative session on Jan. 26, 2015. His wife, Krista, looks on.

Greg Hughes has never been our average Utah politician and, as his wife, I will add, he’s not the average person.

His upbringing was rough, his circumstances humble. He was raised by a single mother when she could, aunt or grandmother when she couldn’t. He experienced cold nights and eviction from more than one home. As a child, he often went to bed hungry because he had no money for food. Stability and constancy were things about which he could only dream.

At 16, he was in a car accident and was told he’d likely not walk without assistance ever again. He spent over a year bound to a wheelchair. As a teenager in Pittsburgh, he saw the fallout as the steel industry collapsed, hardworking individuals and once-prosperous communities were devastated. He learned that the future is unpredictable, and we must always be prepared.

By all accounts, Greg should be leading a troubled life. He never should have attended college, started a business, had a public career or a strong family. But Greg is not another statistic.

Entitled peanut gallery members, like George Pyle, use people like my husband as an archetype for things they want to blindly attack. (“Let us hear no more of Greg Hughes”).

Their point of view is one-dimensional, selective, narrow and uninformed. Greg is a person who has fought adversity all his life. It is in his DNA to stand up and be counted, he’s guided more by values than popularity. This is what defines the man I’ve been married to for 25 years.

Sure, sometimes you may disagree with him, but what I know is that Greg always tells the truth, there is nothing passive-aggressive or duplicitous about him. I admire that his life experience has deeply ingrained in him compassion for those less fortunate, empathy and speaking up. He will never hide the conservative principles that led him here.

While in office, Greg pushed for education reform, parental choice and involvement in education. He created a tuition program for students with special needs, and a readiness program for students struggling. He championed programs for ESL students, increased STEM education and dual language learning. He championed justice reforms which provide second chances for those who have made mistakes. Greg was the driving force behind Operation Rio Grande — expanding mental health, substance abuse, expungements, job opportunities, housing options and safety, all reforms for those experiencing homelessness. He led when progress wasn’t being made and went after those preying on the most vulnerable in our society.

He called out Big Pharma, going after the manufacturers of opioids. He took on the business community, defended workers by pushing reforms/restrictions on abusive non-compete clauses, because he doesn’t believe that people are property. He’s worked hard for our veterans, funding three new veterans nursing homes and passed significant legislation for the men/women in our military by providing tuition-free college and tax breaks for them and their families.

He’s done these things because he believed they were the right things to do. That’s leadership. When good information drives good decisions, there is no need to give in to uninformed scrutiny from cynical people. When good leaders make impactful change some people get mad.

So that’s why I’m not buying what Mr. Pyle is selling: Don’t be bold when you can support someone who will play it safe and embrace mediocracy. Don’t look for exceptional or different. Don’t look for people willing to jump into hard problems requiring tough decisions. Go with people who stay unscarred by doing nothing to offend no one.

My husband is fond of quoting Steve Jobs, who said, “if you want to make everyone happy, don’t be a leader, sell ice cream.”

Who Greg is and where he comes from inform his consistent public decisions and leadership approach. Greg, and leaders like him, use their time and talents to make a difference in this world.

People like George Pyle are only keyboard warriors making baseless accusations against those they hate, hoping to sell clicks. Thanks, but I’ll take the leader who makes a difference.

Krista Hughes

Krista Hughes, Draper, is the wife of former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes.