Bittersweet

It really doesn’t feel like twelve years have passed since my Senator first ran for public office. Back in 2002, we were not political people.  I mean, I had worked in politics long before we got married, but that seemed like a lifetime ago at the point when Cliff decided to throw his hat into the political ring.

In January of 2002, I was a stay at home mom of two toddlers and Cliff was a small businessman who had been on his own for a few years.

Talk about a scary shock…leaving a big company to go at it alone. Fortunately, we were either too young or too naive to care but determined to work hard and find our own way in the world.

That would be us circa 1995. Oh my goodness, the bangs…

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After seven years as a self-employed commercial real estate broker, Cliff had grown increasingly  frustrated with all of the rules, regulations and hefty taxes on small business that were coming out of our State Capitol. Mind you, he was no stranger to hard work, but he saw so many instances that prohibited economic growth and development and were an impediment to success. Night after night I remember him complaining about how the legislators making the laws affecting small business were political professionals with no business experience. And, I would tell him time and time again to quit complaining and go do something about it. Ha, right!?

So, he did. Throw his hat in the ring, win and serve three full terms in the Oklahoma State Senate!

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However, because of a twelve year term limit for legislators, Cliff’s time as a State Senator is up today. Yep, all done and it is bittersweet.

I am extremely proud of his tenure in that office. Cliff defied lots of political odds and stereotypes and quietly worked behind the scenes for the greater good. And, if I have heard it once I have heard it time and again,  they “just don’t make politicians like him.”  Well, that is true and probably because he’s not really a “politician.” Just a good man trying to make a positive difference. Or, as he likes to say, “keeping the bad laws from happening.”

In honor of my Senator and his twelve years of public service, I thought I would write about some of the good, the bad and the ugly from his time representing the people of Senate District 40. So, here goes!

The good.  

There was a lot of good!

Man, did we get to know some seriously awesome people! There were the lovely and gracious people we met while campaigning on their door steps and in the district….The individuals and constituents who came to the Capitol throughout the years and the kids who cycled through as pages and students who are now adults. Gulp. So, so many wonderful people. Our lives have certainly been enriched by their very acquaintance and I am most grateful.

Here are a few photos I found on my computer in no particular order..

Special friends in the district.

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Friends and campaign volunteers. These two met during the 2002 campaign and are still together.  Gotta love those campaign romances!!

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Would not have survived a single campaign without my right arm, Whitney!  Love this girl. She’s now married with three kids of her own.  I am old.

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Here’s the Senator speaking Cherokee with the Heisman winner like its no big deal!

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These young men are now in college.

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For some reason, this pic with Miss Oklahoma and Miss America always makes me smile!

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Who doesn’t love a parade, right?!  Even in the rain!

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Anyone who volunteered on that 2002 campaign knew Jim…

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And, Sharon…my heart is full of happy memories thinking about the wonderful people from that first campaign. We were blessed with a little army of awesome that year!

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Cliff looks so “official” in this next one, but what makes it really special is the gentleman sitting behind him. Senator Myers and Cliff were both “Freshman” Senators together and seat mates on the floor. He passed away a few years ago. Good man, lovely wife, beautiful family. Just another example of the special people we have met on this journey.

The Senator reads...

Which leads me to the lobbyists, politicos and the savvy men and women who work for the politicos. These people are animals I tell you, but always fun to be around. I would add that you often hear the stories about back stabbing and political posturing that goes on in politics, and don’t get me wrong, I could write a book about all that. It happens. But, there are also some truly smart, savvy and super loyal people in this business as well.  I cherish our friendship with these men and women and have learned so much from them…

First friend in the Oklahoma State Senate…

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The Governor…elected in the same 2002 election cycle. He was also pledge brothers at OU with the best man in our wedding.  Small world!

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Fellow Senate Wives….

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And, Senate colleagues…..

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Love this one from our annual tradition of inviting Legislators over for dinner during session.  Clearly, this was a fun one!

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Safe to say they get along nicely…most of the time!

Pleasantly Surprised!

And, a favorite member from the House who went on to bigger and better things. The Senator regrets not wearing a tie that night! I regret not being in that photo!  Such a sweetheart!
Election Night Coverage

Quasi serious Senate leadership pic…

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A swearing in ceremony.

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These two…

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I am at a loss for words.

Vice Chairman and Chair of the Senate Energy Committee. Good things happened for the Oklahoma Energy Industry on their watch. There are probably lots of fun captions for this photo, but none suitable for print!

Friends in the Federal delegation who were always a good source of support, advice and institutional knowledge…

Senate Delegation

If you are from Oklahoma…this next one is just cool for historical purposes, regardless of your political party. And, it was taken at a fundraiser we held in our home.  Double cool.

Before the Shellacking

A few notable highlights along the way…

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Love the look on Cliff’s face in this one!

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Oh my goodness. Kathy.  Where to begin…

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Kathy has been Cliff’s right arm and my sister wife (Ha!) at the Capitol for a while and she is family.  I love this woman for so many reasons and always will.  She is just salt of the earth and she has Cliff’s back.  Believe me, you need someone watching your back down at that marble palace!

We have also had some really great opportunities during this time that I cherish. Cliff attended a handful of legislative conferences and the kids and I tagged along. For me, as a mom, this was probably one of the highlights.

Williamsburg and Charlottsville, Virginia

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Chicago

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Puerto Rico

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Hawaii

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Memphis

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Pretty neat stuff. I hope they learned something!

The Bad
Campaigns and opponents. Yep, we had a few of those.

2002  A six way primary election, a run off election and a general election. I’m exhausted simply remembering that inaugural foray into politics.

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2006  A general election with a self funded and fairly well known opponent.

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2010  The best kind of opponent. She dropped out before her name went on the ballot re-electing my senator before the primary. Couldn’t have dreamed that one up any better!

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All of that is just the nature of the beast and I will write a book about it some day.

The Ugly

There wasn’t a whole lot of ugly…but what there was …well, it is still fairly raw and I think I will just save it for my book.  Lets just say it involves some slashed tires, cut cable, punctured radiators and threats against our family.  Sounds like a scary movie, right?

So, there you have it. Twelve awesome years in a nutshell!

I think our son (pictured below in 2002) summed it up best yesterday when he sent a sweet text to his dad knowing that today would be bittersweet. He said, “ For the last 12 years I’ve been proud to say to people that my dad was a state senator and a successful and loved one at that…You actually did work for the community and made a change.  Now, it’s on to the next job.  Whatever you do dad, you’ll excel at it because you do great things and people love you.  Just remember that whatever you do, make sure you are doing what you love.”

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Out of the mouths of babes.

Needless to say, nostalgia is hovering over our house today.  I am eternally thankful for countless opportunities, lessons and friendships that Cliff’s public service has provided.  We have all learned so much from so many.  But, most of all, today, I am simply proud of my man and excited for what the future holds.

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