Work hard and be prepared.
This is the philosophy that underpins Laurence Hislop’s life.
“It is how I was raised, to always be ready. You never know when an opportunity will arise, just like the situation I am in now,” the new Tobago-born government senator said in a Sunday Newsday interview.
Hislop, 45, said he doesn’t work with the intention to achieve any specific goal.
“I work and if the something comes, it comes. So, if I am in an organisation, I don’t work to get a promotion but I put my best foot forward every day when I work. If out of the work accolades and promotions come, then I praise God for that.”
Hislop, who was sworn in at the start of the March 22 sitting of the Upper House, regarded the experience as both enlightening and humbling.
“You see these things (swearing-in ceremonies) on television and you never really pay much attention to the level of detail and preparation that goes into it. It is a very humbling experience to be there and to actually be the person taking the oath of office. To go through the entire proceeding on the day was enlightening and very humbling at the same time.”
He said he is also humbled by the confidence the Prime Minister has placed in him.
“I was shocked that I was even considered.”
Nevertheless, Hislop admitted that politics was never in his life’s plan.
He said even when he was approached to contest the Mason Hall/Moriah seat for the People’s National Movement (PNM) in the December 6 Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election, politics was the furthest thing from his mind.
“I spent some time thinking and praying about it because politics was never on my agenda. I have always been interested in the cut and thrust of it and politics in general but to say for me to be involved in it, that was never part of my plan.”
But after much careful consideration, Hislop said, he decided to give it a try.
He said he saw it as an avenue to provide greater amenities for the community.
“From a church perspective, I have always been a person of service to people. And so when this opportunity came, I said let me make an attempt at it.”
During a political meeting at the Mason Hall Secondary School, in the run-up to the THA election, Dr Rowley gave Hislop a glowing endorsement, saying he was well-acquainted with his family.
Rowley said Hislop represented the best Mason Hall had to offer.
Although he lost the seat to the Progressive Democratic Patriot’s Ian Pollard, Hislop said the experience opened his eyes to the area’s limitless potential.
“So, I made a commitment after the election that I will look for avenues to continue to do some work within the district. I just saw it (electoral representation) as an opportunity to serve at a different and wider level. That is why I chose to do it.”
Born into a staunch Seventh-Day Adventist family in Mason Hall – the last of four boys – Hislop described himself as “a mixture of many disciplines.”
He attended the Scarborough SDA primary school, Harmon School of the SDA and later at a technical school in Trinidad.
Hislop recalled that some of the decisions he made about his life didn’t sit well with his parents when he eventually left home to study and find his own path.
“It went counter to how I was raised as an Adventist but I continued to live my life as I chose to. I am still a member of the SDA church but I consider myself more Christian than Adventist if that is something that can be considered.”
Formally trained in information technology, Hislop spent seven years at RBC before dabbling in several businesses, which, he said, “weren’t as successful as I expected them to be.”
Undeterred, he tried his hand at construction and heavy equipment operations and never looked back.
“I became certified with a programme YTEPP (Youth Training and Employment Partnership Programme) was doing and I am a fully certified operator that can work in industrial sites because the programme was US certified.”
He is also a registered egg farmer.
From a religious perspective, Hislop said he decided to recommit his life to Christ in 2010.
He is currently the director of the Tobago Pathfinders marching band, a youth-based organisation.
Saying he has been an evangelist for a number of years, Hislop said he has held several crusades, “But my relationship with Christ is greater than my relationship with the church.”
Married with two adult children, Hislop said his family is also at the centre of his life.
His son attends university in the US, pursuing a degree in aviation with flight while his daughter, known as the Original Qua Qua, has her own musical career in Tobago.
He said his daughter is the voice behind Tobago Updates’ morning programme theme song.
Hislop’s wife is currently working in the UK.
“She is originally from the UK and so because of our son’s education in the US, we have to supplement his income.”
Apart from his family and religious commitments, Hislop said he finds the time to attend to his four German Shepherds.
“I am a serious dog lover.”
He also recently purchased a Doberman pup and is amazed at how well the five dogs are socialising.
Asked what are his pet peeves, Hislop said laziness, unprofessionalism and poor customer service.
Of the latter, he said, “I would walk into an eating place and if the server doesn’t have a pleasant face, I would ask for them to smile and if I get an attitude I wouldn’t just walk out. But I prefer people serve with a smile and serve with pride rather than be sour.”
While he acknowledged that “I am now part of a team” on the government’s senatorial bench, Hislop said if given the opportunity, he would use the platform to address issues that are Tobago-centric.
“I have a passion for agriculture, food production, youth. So, if I am asked to speak on those things it would be advocacy that is Tobago-centric. Those are some of the things I would seek to champion once given the opportunity.”
After two years of the pandemic, Hislop also welcomed the government’s decision to remove safe zones and other covid19 restrictions which go into effect on April 4.
“It gives the island an opportunity to breathe because we have been holding our proverbial breaths for two years plus. Breathe in the context of everything – relaxation, business and individuals.”
He lamented the hardship many people experienced through either loss of jobs or reduced income
“I believe it will now give people the additional opportunity for employment, for business so Tobago can go back to some semblance of normalcy.
“I know we will never be completely normal as we were before but we can return to a level of relaxation that we knew and, hopefully, within that relaxation, our productivity would be increased. I am looking forward to the relaxation.”
Hislop cautioned Tobagonians to be mindful that the pandemic is still around.
“The virus is still with us and we need to be responsible in the midst of the additional freedoms we have been given.”