How does one become a community watchdog? Ask Ken

Ken Campbell wasn’t expecting to become a community watchdog when he retired 13 years ago.

After a career in the pulp and paper industry — culminating in his running the Northwood mill in Price George — Ken retired early and set his sights on having some fun.

“I holidayed for three years,” he says. “Went to Arizona.”

But he knew something was missing.

And so, at the age of 60, Ken went back to work, starting a company that literally keeps him up all night and generally on the move.

“I’m more active now,” he says of the lifestyle his new business has given him. “If I didn’t have the business, I would be sitting around, doing nothing.

“If you sit around, you’ll have a heart attack — that’s what Dr. Oz says.”

The business he started — Quail Security — turned 10 in June. More likely than not, you’ve seen one of the company vehicles around town. It might be patrolling. It might sitting outside a burnt-out restaurant or home.

It might even be parked on a residential street while Ken is busy pushing a snow shovel down a sidewalk.

Ken’s company has grown to become the Osoyoos watchdog, Ken and his people giving up nights of sleep so that others in the community can rest easy.

“It’s not a job, really,” he says. “I do it as a service to the town.”

That “service” has him on the couch after midnight, waiting for calls from the various alarm companies providing security to Osoyoos and area homes and hurrying out the door if a word of trouble comes his way.

It wasn’t always that way.

After a year of training — which included among other tasks, looking after Premier Gordon Campbell and assisting BC ferries — Ken’s first gig was providing security at the Nk’Mip Campground. When the Spirit Ridge resort opened, he was given the security contract for that facility as well.

“I came back here and started the company and I did security here,” he recalls. “I was working for the Osoyoos Indian Band and the girls at the office picked the company’s name.

“They liked Quail. It fit with the culture and the setting.”

The early days, he said, were spent chasing golf carts stolen from the campground and other client properties.

“There was a lot of tom-foolery,” he said. “I’d go after them in my Suzuki Sidekick and the RCMP would help me catch them.”

Over the years, Ken has added local hotels and resorts to his client list. He now watches over a few wineries and does routine checks on more than 100 private residences.

He also provides round-the-clock security for Area 27, the motorsports club located north of Osoyoos.

His staff contingent has grown to 10, meaning he’s now responsible for almost a dozen good-paying jobs in the South Okanagan.

The team is professionally licensed and covered by liability insurance. Ken demands a strong commitment to integrity and upholding the law.

“We’re usually the first one there,” he says of a night call involving one of his client properties. Safety is a priority, he adds, which means a close working relationship with the local RCMP.

Locally, Ken is a member of the Elks in Oliver, the Osoyoos Legion — Quail provides free security for the Legion — and is a proud and active member of the Rotary Club of Osoyoos. He also has a membership in Area 27.

Now 70, Ken says he has no plans to slow down.

The Campbells now hunker down at Nk’Mip Campground, where they’ve built a cozy little camping site and look after late arrivals and campsite security.

“We still get away,” Ken says. “The two months in the summer are when I’m really busy. It’s not so bad in the winter.

“I have no plans of retiring in the near future. I love what I do, and I love serving the people in the South Okanagan, who make my work very enjoyable. Osoyoos and Oliver and great communities to be a part of.”

-Story and photo courtesy Andrew Stuckey, Osoyoos Today