A large group of politically savvy state employees gathered together Saturday morning to make history, as OPEA and the OPEAPAC sponsored its first ever Government Relations School.
“We expected a great day from the moment this all came together,” said OPEA executive director Sterling Zearley. “From an incredible group of guest speakers to an active, engaged membership, we couldn’t have asked for a better conference to launch what we hope will be many more events such as this.”
From the first session of the day, “Lobbying in the New World: How to Think Bipartisan” with Pat Hall and Jim Dunlap to the commencement address by Oklahoma House Speaker Lance Cargill, OPEA members were told many times that, as this is a new era in Oklahoma politics, the association is going to have to somewhat change its thinking about traditional relationship between Democrats and Republicans.
“With a firm Republican leadership in the House and a split Senate, OPEA is going to have to take a step into the future by completely rethinking the way it lobbies for legislation and endorse candidates,” Zearley said. “Traditional friends of this association may have other priorities, so we are going to have be very smart in our approach to this new political age.”
After the opening session, attendees had the opportunity to move into one of two Education Sessions – “Getting Ink! What the Media Wants” with Mark Thomas, executive director of the Oklahoma Press Association and Michael McNutt from the “Daily Oklahoman” and “Work It! Leveraging Your Job/Agency for Results” with Mike Carrier.
“Both these seminars offered our members great insight into media relations and how to further their cause through the press,” Zearley said.
Early afternoon education sessions included “What a Legislator Wants,” hosted by former State President Pro Tempore Cal Hobson and State Representative Trebor Worthen and “Technology:Gizmos, Gadgets and Blogs with Ashley Humphries from Element Fusion.
“There is no better friend of this association than Senator Hobson and Rep. Worthen will by the House author of our pay raise bill this year,” Zearley said. Our members also enjoyed hearing from Ashley, whose company, Element Fusion, designed the popular new OPEA website.”
Zearley himself took the stage later with a session called “Direct Lobbying on Your Turf” and deputy director Scott Barger offered a seminar entitled “Grass Roots Genius – Developing Savvy Members.”
“Speaking with Spark” culminated with a commencement speech by House Speaker Lance Cargill who, in his remarks, thanked employees for the work they do, thanked them again for participating in the political process and gave a brief outline of his vision for the future of Oklahoma.
“That Speaker Cargill took the time to visit with us on a Saturday afternoon was significant,” Zearley said. “He promised our members that it was his plan to forward our agenda through the House.”
According to Zearley, now that the school is over, OPEA members need to start applying their knowledge in order to make OPEA become a viable force at the Capitol.
“Our members should not go home and forget this powerful knowledge they learned today,” he said. “The Legislative session has not yet begun, but we need to be getting out the word to all of our legislative officials that OPEA will not be denied.”