By Chris Eversole
It’s a new day at the Oklahoma Capitol, and the legislators representing the Mustang area are excited to be a part of it.
Four of them shared their excitement at the legislative breakfast held Tuesday at the Mustang Town Center.
Newly-elected Rep. Brian Hill noted that new Gov. Kevin Stitt “bounces around with a football.”
“He popped into my office and asked if there was anything he could do for me,” Hill said. “It’s a completely different mindset.”
Hill, Sen. Paul Rosino, Sen. Lonnie Paxton and Sen. Michael Brooks spoke at the breakfast. Rep. Jay Steagall was ill and did not attend.
All of them have spent a short time in the Legislature. Paxton, who was elected in 2016 has been there the longest.
With a new governor and many new legislators, the state is ready to move forward, the legislators said.
“We’ve got a lot of people who are not part of an old guard,” Hill said.
Education and mental health funding are priorities, he noted.
He wants to see faith-based organizations, school and businesses work together to supplement additional state funding for mental health.
“As we work together, we can come up with a solution,” he said. “I’ve seen kids’ lives turned around through cooperation among organizations.”
Brooks said that every dollar spent on mental health services returns $6 in saving because these services reduce addiction and improve overall health.
“Money invested in mental health makes sense because it radiates out,” he said.
Rosino agreed. “If we can fix mental health, we can fix incarceration,” he said. “We can get people back working and contributing to society.”
Brooks praised former Mustang Superintendent Sean McDaniel because he was constantly meeting with him and other legislatures before, during and after the teachers’ walkout.
McDaniel brought groups of teachers and staff with him. “He trusted them, and he let them do the talking,” Brooks said.
Mustang High School Principal Theresa Wilkerson twisted his arm until he agreed to visit the high school. “She wouldn’t let go,” he said.
“She showed me how the high school is doing more with less in areas such as art and robotics. You guys are doing so well.”
Rosino said that the state must do more to prepare its workforce.
That’s especially true for aeronautics – which is a major part of the state’s economy, with employers including Tinker Air Force Base and a large American Airlines maintenance facility in Tulsa.
Aeronautics companies considering moving to Oklahoma always ask if they can find workers, Rosino said.
“With our low unemployment, the pool of workers is really small,” Rosino said.
He noted that one area aeronautics company starts workers with a high school education at $15 an hour for unskilled work. As they train, they can make up to $35 an hour, he said.
“I beg parents of kids who don’t want to go to college to not force them to go,” he said.
The legislative breakfast is sponsored by the City of Mustang, Mustang Public School and the Mustang Chamber of Commerce.
“Being in Mustang is fun,” Rosino said. “The people are very hospitable. If we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing, we’re paying attention to them.”