There is a common misconception that Oklahoma state legislators only work part-time since session runs February through the end of May. I wanted to clarify that. Being a legislator is a full-time job.
One could slack and skip votes and not travel around their district but I’m sure their constituents would realize that and make a change quickly. I’m honestly not sure how anyone with another job is able to juggle both. As an educator, it was impossible for me to do before, plus, you can’t hold two state, district or government jobs at one time. The only people able to run for office typically own their own businesses and have staff covering day-to-day responsibilities when they need to be at the Capitol. There’s also those who are retired, have a job where they can set their own hours and work around their Senate schedule or this is their only job.
This is a fast-paced job that requires you to be in multiple places at the same time. You have your year-round Capitol responsibilities (session, meetings, studies, etc.) and then you have the hundreds of district speaking engagements and events. I’m one of the lucky ones. While our Senate districts have roughly the same number of constituents (78,000), our district is one of the smaller ones encompassing only part of two counties (Muskogee and Cherokee). Some senators have as many as nine counties and travel constantly.Believe me, there’s nothing part-time about this job. We work at least six days a week, and our day starts early in the morning and ends late at night when events finish, the phone stops ringing, and the texts and emails are all answered. Being public officials, we’re on call 24/7.
To give you a better understanding, I thought I’d share part of my calendar from the last six weeks (42 days) with you. I typically try to keep my Sundays clear for my family, so we’ll say 36 days. I have attended more than 50 activities around our district as well as multiple meetings in Oklahoma City.
We had three full days of education interim studies at the Capitol. I attended three days of the State Department of Education’s 441 Working Group that I was appointed to that’s working to create rules to govern schools that utilize four-day weeks or are in less than 165 days. There was the Character.org State School of Character awards ceremony and then I spoke at the OKASBO Fall Conference in Norman. I attended the Muskogee County Farm Bureau annual meeting and worked the Muskogee County Cattleman’s Association’s Beef Tent at the Tulsa State Fair.
Other events included Cherokee County Sheriff Norman Fisher’s retirement ceremony, the manufacturing tour of Owens-Illinois and Dal-Tile. I spoke to the Muskogee Retired Educators Group and attended the Muskogee County Flooding Appreciation Luncheon for first responders. Then there was the Muskogee Chamber of Commerce agriculture appreciation banquet. I handed out citations at the Muskogee County Teacher of the Year ceremony at ICTC. I attended the Organization of Rural Oklahoma Schools Fall Conference in Shawnee as well as the Regents of Higher Education monthly meeting in Oklahoma City. There was the Cherokee County Help in Crisis Gala in Tahlequah and the Muskogee High School FFA pie auction. I also met with Ginger Sigler, director of the Oklahoma Police Pension and Retirement System.
This week, I met with the Cherokee County Retired Educators and attended the Muskogee Veterans Parade. I’m speaking at the Fort Gibson National Cemetery Veterans Day event and attending the Northeastern State University veterans program. This coming week, we’re holding our third LOFT Working Group meeting and I’ll also be meeting with Secretary of Education Michael Rogers as well as with the NSU Optometry Department. Then I’ll attend a Cattleman’s Gathering and a COLA House interim study.
Next week, we have the three-day Senate Caucus Retreat and I’m attending the Save the Batfish trivia night fundraiser.
My office also receives hundreds of calls and emails weekly from constituents asking questions or needing help. I try my best to answer all of those, which typically requires me finding an answer from another agency or entity. When I’m at the Capitol, there are also always visitors stopping by to talk.
I enjoy every minute of this hectic job, but I assure you it’s far from part-time work.
To contact me at the Capitol, please write to Senator Dewayne Pemberton, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 429, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, or call (405) 521-5533. You can also email me at email@example.com.