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Darwin Kurt Tibbetts, OBE, JP

Opposition Leader, the Hon. Kurt Tibbetts, OBE, JP

Darwin Kurt Tibbetts, JP, Order of the British Empire

The desire to serve his country and its people has guided Opposition Leader, the Hon. Darwin Kurt Tibbetts, JP, for over 30 years. It has underpinned his actions as a Lions Club member and as a politician.

"I consider myself blessed to have had the opportunity to raise a family in Cayman and to do what I have. I sincerely want others to have similar opportunities," says Mr. Tibbetts, for whom family, friends, fellow citizens and country are paramount in his life.

This George Town MLA has been successful in business, community service and politics. He owned and operated a print shop for 25 years and is currently serving his fifth consecutive term in the Legislative Assembly. He has a genuine wish to put people at ease; most Caymanians know him and they all call him 'Kurt.'

In 1976 at just 22 years of age, he found an outlet for his desire to serve by joining the Lions Club of Grand Cayman.

His acumen for fund raising helped the club collect hundreds of thousands of dollars that were ploughed back into the community, mostly to augment government welfare programmes.

Mr. Tibbetts takes pride in the Lions Centre, their swimming pool and the Lions Eye Clinic. Another Lions milestone while he was president for the 1993-94 year was the launching of the Big Brothers, Big Sisters movement. Appropriately, his theme for that year was 'I am my brother's keeper.'

He also helped introduce the Lions' Benzarama fundraisers that brought country music legends Johnny Cash, Charlie Pride, Tanya Tucker, Ronnie Milsap, Don Williams and Ben E. King to Cayman.

Looking back, he gratefully acknowledges the influence his Lions Club seniors had on him and emphasises that he is only one among many like-minded members. He values all the club's accomplishments and particularly the fellowship of its membership.

Notably, it was the satisfaction Mr. Tibbetts gained from serving others that led to his decision to enter the political arena.

For two terms as an Opposition Member, he consolidated his understanding of the importance of medium- and long-term planning for these Islands, as well as the need for constitutional modernisation to strengthen Cayman's democracy.

Then, between 2000 and 2001, he served as Leader of Government Business and again, in 2005-2009, as head of the People's Progressive Movement, a position he continues to hold.

Asked to list some major political accomplishments, Mr. Tibbetts points to the Freedom of Information Law and the new Constitution. Since that document allows people-initiated referenda, Cayman's first referendum endorsing the new Constitution was a memorable experience for him.

He also values the work he's put into agriculture. Farming is one of his favourite hobbies (fishing and a good game of dominoes are the others), and he strongly believes that while agriculture has great potential in Cayman, it also needs encouragement.

"We should aim to be as self-sufficient as possible," he says. "And with more people using innovative methods to produce fresh vegetables, herbs and spices, we can be. We are definitely seeing more local produce, beef and pork on supermarket shelves now."

He also takes pride in the Market at the Grounds which provides the community with local produce, meats and fish, as well as being a social gathering place.

When this modest man learned that he was made an OBE, his initial surprise gave way to humility and a feeling of privilege to be joining the ranks of Cayman's other OBEs.

And with continuing support from wife Shirley Ann, daughters Jacynth and Janelle, son Jared, and siblings Mexi Ann Grant, Denniston and Garth, Mr. Tibbetts looks forward to giving additional years of service.

He is also grateful for the values that his teachers instilled in him at an early age, particularly the importance of integrity and of being true to self. His advice to young people who face increasing challenges:

"Hold fast to our traditional values, including resiliency and friendliness. Be secure in the knowledge that hard work and dedication are the cornerstones of success."

His parents ensured their children did just that. Coming from a typical seafarer's family he comments, "I realised later in life that both parents played vital roles. My mother (Selma) made sure that we understood that our father (Darwin Leach Tibbetts) was away to earn a living and raise his family."

Today, Mr. D. Kurt Tibbetts hopes the community will remain God-fearing, retaining heritage, culture and "all we know to be Caymanian, especially family values."

For further information contact: Wosila Rochester