Monday, May 2, 2016

Schulz and McCall designated as future leaders of Oklahoma legislature!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

Last week, the Oklahoma Senate Republican caucus designated Senator Mike Schulz, (R, Altus) as the next Senate President Pro Tem.  Schulz replaces Senator Brian Bingman, (R, Sapulpa) who is term limited.   “It’s an honor to be selected by my colleagues to lead the Republican caucus in the next legislative session. Under the leadership of Pro Tem Bingman, we’ve made significant progress in making Oklahoma a better place to live, to work and to raise a family,” Schulz said. “Certainly, challenging times lie ahead, but we are a resilient state and there is a very talented group of men and women serving in the Senate who have the passion and creativity to find the solutions that will get our state moving in the right direction. I appreciate the trust my Republican colleagues have placed in me and look forward to serving them, and the people of the great state of Oklahoma as Senate Pro Tempore.”
     Schulz, 52, was elected in a special election in May of 2006 after the death of Senator Kerr in January of that year.  Kerr’s widow ran to complete his term in one of the most expensive state senate races in Oklahoma history.  The balance of power in the upper chamber was in the balance.  Democrats controlled the Senate 25-22 at the time.  Schulz’s win started the snowball down the hill for Senate Republicans, who now control the Senate 36-12.  Schulz is an OSU graduate with a degree in Agriculture.  He has worked for Farm Bureau and he farms and ranches in Jackson County. 
     This week, the seventy one Oklahoma House of Representative Republicans voted to designate Representative Charles McCall, (R-Atoka) as Speaker Designate.  Current Speaker Jeff Hickman, (R-Fairview) is term limited.  McCall was elected in 2012 and is completing his second term in the House.  McCall, 46, graduated from OU with a degree in Finance.  He served as Mayor of Atoka and his family has been in the banking business in southeast Oklahoma since the 1930s. 
     Both Schulz and McCall will have to be confirmed by their caucuses, and elected by the full chamber after the November elections, but that is normally a formality.  Three observations:
     First, both of these leaders are from rural Oklahoma.  That is a good thing.  All too often the rural interests in our state are ignored by the urban legislative leaders.  Atoka, where McCall is from, has a population of around 3,500 people.  Altus, Schulz’s hometown has 20,000 living there.   Sooners from rural Oklahoma look at things much differently than their citified brethren.  McCall will bring a knowledgeable background to the table on water rights.  His small town banking background will give him a perspective of what farmers, ranchers and small businesses struggle with.  The state’s farmers and ranchers have to feel good knowing they have one of their own leading the Senate in Schulz.  Their rural roots will be a great asset.
     Second, both of these leaders must build consensus.  Schulz won his race in the Senate uncontested.  McCall won a close race against a veteran lawmaker.  But both must do the same thing to be successful: get everyone to pull on the same end of the rope at the same time.  That is not easy when you are talking about 70 plus Republicans in the House.  Unity is a difficult task to accomplish.  John Maxwell lists four things a good leader must do to build unity in an organization: (1) Understand the mission, (2) Take ownership of the mission, (3) Contribute to the mission, (4) Pass on the mission.  Maxwell says, “It’s a leader’s responsibility to transmit the mission clearly- not your team’s responsibility to decipher it from their surroundings.”
     Third, both of these leaders face major challenges.  The budget hole Oklahoma state government is in will not be fixed in one legislative session.  Future sessions will deal with revenue shortfalls and questions of where to cut government.  Schulz and McCall will need to lead Oklahoma government down a path of change.  That change can only happen if they can unite Republicans in their respective chambers.  Oklahoma government needs to be streamlined and rightsized.  Perhaps two rural Oklahomans are exactly what is needed to get it done. 

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