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Brad Wilson, the new Utah House majority leader, saw an opportunity as a 10-year-old in Layton, along with his next-door neighbor David Bailey.

They built a shack "out of the scrap lumber from all of the homes being built in our neighborhood," he says. After a pause, he adds, "Some of it may have been good lumber that the builders were planning on using."

Wilson and Bailey would later start Destination Homes together; Wilson is the president and CEO. On Destination's website is a picture of the two with that shack — hammered together with mismatched boards pointing in all directions.

"We like to say that's the first home we ever built," Wilson says. "They are a little better now."

His career is a story of being prepared to seize opportunities when they appear, such as using the scrap (or not-so-scrap) wood in his neighborhood.

He calls himself an accidental politician, but took advantage of a last-minute vacancy to initially run for the House. The Kaysville Republican says he entered legislative leadership by accident, but had talents that caught the eyes of others — and didn't turn down chances that came.

Wilson says his business career also took twists he never envisioned — and were not part of any grand design.

For example, as the lifelong Davis County resident attended Weber State University to work on a business degree, he found that the campus radio station — which had been run by communications majors — needed someone with a business background to help shore up operations. He went for it and was hired.

"I thought I was going to go into radio" as a career, he says.

But after an internship at KISN in Salt Lake City, "I decided that probably wasn't the thing for me," he says. "They were great people there, but it just didn't feel right."

With his business degree, he instead took an opportunity to join American Express Financial Advisors — and fairly quickly became the associate vice president at its Utah office.

"It was an absolutely fantastic experience," he says. "I was in my 20s. I was responsible for a fairly large office, and all the hiring, training and recruiting, and managing the staff."

After about 10 years, he decided he wanted to work for himself. And his old friend David Bailey, who had become a homebuilder, "asked me to do some consulting for him," Wilson says. "One thing led to another," and they formed Destination Homes.

They tried to carve a niche in Utah and Idaho — and have been part of South Jordan's Daybreak area from its beginning — as they offered what Wilson calls "classic Utah architecture."

"So the homes you see in Harvard-Yale, Sugar House and the Avenues are the basis for the architecture we use," he says. "We pay a lot of attention to outdoor living space. These are not homes for the uber-wealthy, but for the average Utah family."

Wilson says entering politics "was never on my bucket list," until he received a call in 2010 from a friend in politics who told him that his state representative was not seeking re-election "and nobody knew. But the filing deadline was the next day. I had 24 hours to decide."

He says his wife told him "something like, 'where much is given, much is required.' I took that to mean I should run if I wanted to," he says. "She's still not sure that's what she meant."

Wilson entered the race "because I thought I could do some good." Three other Republicans ended up running, too, but he won.

Still, he says, he considers himself "an accidental politician."

Entering House leadership was also an accident and was not sought, he says. His first leadership office came just after his first term when then-House Speaker Becky Lockhart asked him to be vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

"I was too new to know that was unusual," he says, but he accepted. "That opportunity gave a perspective that has been helpful" as he took other roles, including being elected as assistant majority whip.

Current House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, says of Wilson, "It's not a coincidence that his leadership and role in the House has grown very quickly in his relatively short time here."

Last year, Wilson said some colleagues asked him in January to challenge then-Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan. "I didn't decide until June," he explains. "I thought I could help our caucus in different ways with different skills."

He built enough support that Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, dropped out of the race before a formal vote.

"I love this," he says about his new job.

Wilson's ratings are good in the early going.

"He's good to work with. He's a very personable guy. He has well-balanced social skills," says House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City. "It's important to get along, and I do get along with Brad."

Wilson says his focus is to help colleagues look at big-picture, long-term problems — and not get lost in the flood of bills and daily political skirmishes.

He frames that sort of strategic thinking by talking about it in terms of Utah's future.

"We're going to double the population here. How's that going to affect air quality, transportation, water and recreation?"

He had the House GOP caucus spend a day discussing those hefty topics earlier this month to identify problems — and opportunities — to act on now for long-term benefit.

"He's a big thinker," Hughes says about Wilson.