KT: Why did you decide to run for office?
JR: I decided it was time to get off the couch, put my hat in the ring and try to make a difference. It just came to a point where, for lack of a better term, it was time to put up or shut up. Either be part of the solution or stop complaining.
KT: Tell me a bit about your work history and why that qualifies you for this position?
JR: Well, I’ve owned Outdoor Pro Landscaping and Tree Service since 2002. That’s what I do for a living. I’ve been in the industry of lawn care since 1997 while I was attending OSU. Now as far as what qualifies me for a state representative position, I can’t say that I’m qualified any more than the next person who is at least 21 years old, a U.S. citizen, a registered voter and all those criteria set out by law.
My personal qualification is my hard working attitude. I don’t finish until the job is completed. For example, yesterday we went to start a drainage job with a trenching machine and five minutes in to the job the machine died. Well, me and one guy finished the job this morning — by hand. We dug about 200 feet of trench by hand, and got the job done. In my line of business, we’re not going home until the job is completed. So I would have to say that is what qualifies me to be a state representative.
I’m not a politician. I’ve never worked on a campaign. I’ve never taken political science courses for the purpose of becoming an elected official. I don’t think you can take a course online about how to be a state rep. As far as qualifications, it’s just me.
Obviously, if and when I’m elected, the first day I walk into the State Capital is going to be my first day on the job. I’ve got a lot of learning to do, and I’m going to go in with the attitude of keeping my mouth shut and my ears open, and learn as much as I can from the people who have some seniority. One thing I’m highly concerned about, even if I’m not elected, if a number of the incumbents are reelected, who is going to lead the House of Representatives in the next term? Who is going to be those two, three, four, five guys that do get reelected and have the experience needed to basically run the house. As it stands right now, if every incumbent were to win, there would still be 33 new representative coming in with no experience. That is a big number. All of us new people will have a lot to learn.
That’s my attitude towards the whole thing. I’m just ready to go and do it.
KT: There are three other competitors in this district, why are you a better choice than they are?
JR: From my interactions with the other three candidates, I strongly feel that we all support a state government that funds state agencies properly. I don’t think there is anybody in the race that is going to say “this agency or that agency doesn’t deserve funding.”
Funding is the big topic right now, it’s the hot button. And not only is it education, it’s every department: corrections, public safety, mental health, child services, everything. Along with education, everything else has to be funded. We can’t fund education and turn our back on, say, healthcare for example. The system won’t work like that.
We have to fund everything properly and truthfully. What I mean by truthfully is, I’m tired of bills being written for one thing and then when it is signed and passed everybody finds out there was something on page 3 of that bill that gave money to something else. Let’s be truthful on what a bill is for. Stop hiding stuff on page 3. Write a bill and make that bill be truthful to its title.
Now, I can’t say anything bad about my opponents. I have no desire to. I don’t know Mark personally, but I’ve talked to him several times, we’ve had cell phone conversations, we’ve talked about a lot of things. I told him, “If you should win, I’m going to keep ringing your phone, and if I should win, I’m going to keep ringing your phone.” Either way, he has only had two years of experience, but that is two more years than I have had. I think it would be wise of any of the three non-incumbent opponents that may win to consult with him, or any former representative. If you’re in that position, you need to have a close ally who’s been in the trenches before to guide you.
I can’t sit here and say I’m more qualified. I don’t think qualified is the right term to use. I think what makes me a better choice is that I’ve alway been, and always will be, a guy that does things right, for the betterment of the whole.
I’ve also been asked if I would go against the Republican Party platform if that meant doing the right thing, and I absolutely will. I’m not going to Oklahoma City to make friends. I have friends back here at home. If I need friends I’ll come home on the weekend and hang out with them. I’m going to Oklahoma City to do a job, and do it in a manner that represents District 30 and the state of Oklahoma as a whole. I would not go to Oklahoma City to make the Republican Party happy.
I’m pretty sure as of right now the most “qualified” candidate would be Mark Lawson because he has served two years. Now, does that mean that he has a degree in how to be a state rep? No. Does he have hundred of hours of classroom time? No. It means he has been there and he has done it.
Kent Glesener and Chuck Threadgill, I know their history as far as what they’ve done for a living. Well, engineering is a good field to have knowledge in when it come to a state. There is a lot of construction and infrastructure that goes along with a state. Now, does that mean he’s the wisest guy on how to handle money? Not necessarily.
I could say I’m the wisest guy on how to handle money because I’ve ran a small business since 2002 and have been very successful at it. I’ve been very efficient. I operate my business in every single aspect, from the initial phone call to payroll, I do it all. But, then again, running a small business here in Bixby, Oklahoma, is not the same as running the state of Oklahoma.
I’ve been knocking on doors, meeting people. I’ve met a lot of people that are really receptive. But also met a guys who asked me “Well what are you going to do about drug court?” I’m not out to solve people’s personal issues and problems, I’m out to solve this issues of the state and District 30.
When I first said I’m going to do this to my fiance and a couple others, I joked “I’m a person of the people.” But that’s how I honestly feel. I’m just a guy in the world, and I think I can make a difference. I know I can make a difference, given the opportunity.
KT: What are the two or three biggest issues or you, or what is your platform?
JR: My platform is not issues, to be honest with you. My platform is doing what’s right, no matter what. Standing up for what is correct and honest. My platform is not health care or transportation or corrections or public safety or education. My platform is doing everything right.
I have no intentions of going to Oklahoma City as a representative and fighting for one thing. I’m going to stand up for everything. Wouldn’t that be the right thing to do? Why would you want to specialize and pick one little issue when you’ve got everything to worry about. That’s what the State Capital does. It covers everything. The hot topic is education. I get that. I understand the passion of the teachers and parents. But, it’s bigger than education. It’s so much bigger than health care or veterans affairs.
In sociology there is a saying, and I can’t tell you who the person is, but the saying is “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” That’s true in state government. State government is not just one of these topics, it’s everything. And the sum of all of that is so much greater than the individual parts.
Running my small business, every job, big or little, is important. I don’t want to just do one project as a representative, I want to be a part of all the projects.
I want to get Oklahoma back to a respectable reputation. Right now the nation looks at Oklahoma and they’re like, “What is going on?” Our teacher strike and walkout was national news, and they’re looking at us like “What are you guys doing?’ We need to turn that around. We are the heartland of America. Let’s represent ourselves as such.
KT: Is there anything you think the voters need to know that we haven’t talked about yet?
JR: I think the voters need to know this, there are people out there spreading information that have agendas. Those agendas are based upon friendships or family relationships or financial ties of some sort. I want the public to know that I am for doing the right thing. I can say I’m for any one of these specific issues that interest groups want, but I’m for doing the right thing for everyone.
I think this election is very important for the next 20 to 30 years of our state. How this election goes and what the people who win go into office and actually do will determine the road that our state goes down. We are at a crossroads as a state, and we are going to one way or the other. I think this next group of public officials will set the town for the state of Oklahoma.
I’m concerned about voter turnout. Will that education fire continue to burn in the minds of the voters and will they go to the polls on June 26? In the 2016 primary, there were 2,200 votes cast for Mark and his opponent. Within district 30 there are approximately 4,500 active Republican voters. Not even half of active Republican voters voted in 2016, and that was a Presidential election year. This is just a midterm election year. So, will they go vote or not? I hope they do.