Karla Silva is a prime example of someone who’s worked their way up the ladder one step at a time.
The new general manager of the Best Western Plus Chemainus Inn, who took over from Peter Watts, had been at the Cowichan Valley Inn in Duncan for 28 years. She started in the pub as a server/bartender before becoming the bar manager, food and beverage manager, sales and catering manager, assistant manager and finally the G.M. for the last year and a half.
Silva grew up in Wadena, Saskatchewan, a town of barely 2,000 people at the time and more in the 1,300 range now. “I was a lawyer’s daughter in a small hick town,” she quipped.
Silva has lived in Duncan since 1985 after her parents relocated.
“My parents used to own the Silver Bridge Inn,” Silva pointed out. “They took it out of receivership in ‘85. They came out here for a holiday and saw the Silver Bridge was closed down and decided why not try that as a career out there.”
Silva stayed here when the Silver Bridge was sold to the Hong family. She worked at the Black Douglas, now the Cow Bay Pub, before starting her long tenure at the CVI in 1989.
“I like to deal with people,” Silva stated. “In this business, there’s always an opportunity when dealing with the public.”
The Pyrch family owned the CVI for most of the years she was there and Silva got some G.M. experience along the way.
“Working with Kurt, we worked together for so many years, when he was away I could do his role,” she pointed out.
Silva says she still keeps in touch with the Pyrches since they sold to the Parks in February of 2015.
“When you’re at one place for a long time, there’s a ton of events,” she indicated.
“It was the home away from home. At that time, it was all the long-time staff that stayed there and the long-time customers that came to see us.”
Watts contacted Silva to say he was taking a job at the Best Western Chateau Granville in Vancouver. “He asked if I wanted to submit my resume for the job,” she noted.
Silva did that and was hired July 13, starting a mere four days later on July 17.
Many aspects of the job appealed to Silva that led her to apply.
“You’re still in the Valley,” she said of the biggest plus of being the Best Western Plus G.M.
“The opportunity to figure out how to continue making it an award-winning hotel with the assistance of staff is unbelievable,” Silva added.
“This place works in conjunction with the (Chemainus) Theatre. We have the ability to book theatre packages when people are staying here.”
Working closely with the Theatre’s managing director Randall Huber creates a strong bond between both facilities.
“The two of us bring a lot of people to the hotel because of that theatre,” Silva reasoned. “We have crossed paths, but we haven’t worked directly till now.
“At one time this was owned by the theatre. It was one whole group. The theatre is still involved in working with us in a lot of ways.”
Silva vaulted into her new position at the height of the summer season.
“It’s continuing to be really busy,” she said. “People are still vacationing with the great weather we’re having, other than the couple of days of bad weather.”
Silva has been married to husband Tom for 11 years, but they’ve been together for 24. She has a 23-year-old daughter and 18-year-old son.
The change of scenery came suddenly for Silva, but she’s enjoying it.
“I think it was a really good move,” she noted. “I think it’s important for us to challenge ourselves for something new.”
Silva is already working to bring her own personal ideals and input into the hotel.
Her goals include “just to develop a bit more marketing and working with the different community groups in Chemainus,” she indicated.
“It has a ton to offer.”