When I first began working for state legislatures in the early 1970s, I quickly came to know and admire a group of longtime, well-respected directors of central, nonpartisan legislative service agencies. Legends like Bonnie Reese in Wisconsin, Art Palmer in Nevada, C. Emerson Murry in North Dakota, DeVan Daggett in Louisiana, David Johnston in Ohio, Serge Garrison in Iowa and Earl Vickers in West Virginia.
And Lyle Kyle in Colorado.
Lyle became director of a staff of 20 researchers for the Colorado Legislative Council in 1958 at age 31. Always humble and respectful, Lyle worked well with legislators of both parties. Under his watch, the Legislative Council staff grew slowly over time to accommodate the expanding roles played by the Legislature, reinforcing the office’s nonpartisan service to the General Assembly.
With an ever-present cigar in his mouth and a wide knowledge of state issues, Lyle soon gravitated to the center of policymaking in the state. At the end of legislative sessions, with the most difficult issues unresolved, legislative leaders would gather at the round table in Lyle’s office and ask him for advice. He would help them find a solution—and make sure they got the credit for it.
Ted Strickland, Senate president at the time of Lyle’s departure from the General Assembly in 1986, said, “The good ideas we took credit for. The bad ones, we blamed on Lyle.” Then-Governor Dick Lamm said, “He’s a gentle person with a fine sense of humor and just a touch of gruffness.”
He’s a gentle person with a fine sense of humor and just a touch of gruffness. —Dick Lamm, Colorado governor, 1975-1987
Martha King, a former social worker who later became director of NCSL’s Health Program, recalls, “Mr. Kyle was instrumental in my career, hiring me in 1979 at the Legislative Council. I particularly remember him supporting me when a committee chair threatened to fire me for doing what I thought she had told me to do.” Another time, Lyle strolled by Martha’s office and said with a wink, “I don’t know how I ever got a g------ social worker on my staff.”
Lyle also played a role in NCSL’s history. Working with Colorado’s legislative leaders and the city of Denver, he put together the city’s pitch to the NCSL Executive Committee to locate the organization’s headquarters in Denver when it was formed in 1975. After the move, he befriended and mentored several of us on the staff in the early days of the organization.
After leaving legislative service, Lyle headed up the Colorado Public Expenditure Council, a private agency that produced studies of state tax policy.
During retirement, Lyle moved to Gillette, Wyoming, to be close to family. He died there on April 12 of natural causes. He was 94.
Lyle is survived by his wife, Ruedene, four children, 11 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren.
Memorials and condolences may be sent in care of Walker Funeral Home, 410 Medical Arts Court, Gillette, WY 82716. Condolences may also be expressed at www.walkerfuneralgillette.com.
Watch a May 18 tribute to Lyle Kyle in the Colorado House.
Karl Kurtz retired from NCSL in 2014 after serving as director of State Services and other programs.