North Queensland can claim the best taxi operator in the state following the naming of Les Gist as Queensland’s “Taxi Operator of the Year”.
The award was presented to Mr Gist at Taxi Council Queensland’s annual conference on the Sunshine Coast. He operates taxis in Townsville, Ayr, Tully and Innisfail and was chosen by an independent judging panel from nominees representing every region of Queensland.
Mr Gist, who was born and raised in Ayr, is a veteran taxi operator with 39 years of experience. He worked as an ambulance officer before buying his first taxi in 1974. By the time he semi-retired in 2009, Mr Gist had built up a fleet of 24 taxis and three charter buses, employing four office staff and engaging 60 drivers.
Mr Gist is valued for considering the needs of his community. In 1987, he introduced the first wheelchair-accessible taxi – a converted XF Falcon – to Townsville, to enable disabled people greater freedom. He later introduced the first wheelchair-accessible taxis to Ayr (2001) and Innisfail (2004). In 2012, Mr Gist painted one of his Ayr taxis bright pink, added Breast Cancer Foundation signs for six months, and used it as a mobile billboard. The signs have now been removed, but Mr Gist decided to keep the taxi pink, as a silent reminder of breast cancer.
Taxi Council Queensland CEO Benjamin Wash said the award was a credit to Mr Gist’s service to “both the industry and humanity”.
“He is a well-deserving recipient of the Taxi Operator of the Year Award.”
Les Gist is available for interview on 0417 781 810.