When Mr. Wagner came in February LEAD filled the 2 hours he and Erin Chancellor spent with us with people who spoke of the issues citizens face in the Tar Creek Superfund site. As many as we could schedule got to meet him, and in this environmentally challenged county in Oklahoma, won't it be in our best interest to know he knows us, had sat with us and listened to our stories, our points of view, our fears and our hopes for the future.
Take some time, write a card to our Ken Wagner. We will stamp your welcome home or congratulation cards to him if you drop them by before mid-January. Won't it be great if he had a stack of them on his desk when he cracked the door open and sat himself down in his Oklahoma City office?
We are going to need a friend in state government who has been seen to have the ability to sit and listen. What made me think he did connect with us? It was after listening to our Ottawa County Health Department nurse and lead prevention specialist and the mother of a lead poisoned 2 year old child with developmental delays who had lost his ability to speak whole words and is now speaking only the first syllable of the words he used to know.
Before Ken Wagner left us he asked to know the name of that 2-year old lead poisoned child he met at the table with his mother. Mr. Wagner may not remember any of the rest of our names, but that child's, but he met us, sat and listened.
Elections have consequences and we have got to put our hopes in the hands of the folks with the keys to power, that they will use that power to protect our citizens, our environment and our precious little ones.
Now we have to hope that our new Governor will hand pick someone with heart, someone who knows Ottawa County, loved northeast Oklahoma, fishes our rivers and swims in Grand Lake and LIKES US to be head of Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Food.
As we all sat together with Secretary Jim Reese, our current head of ODAFF recently at the Afton Senior Citizen Center, lined up on the front row were the Grand Lake Water Protectors and many others who will be affected by the lack of regulations our state has put on the expanding poultry industry.
Every person who spoke had the attention of Mr. Reese, who admitted the Department of Ag had been "caught off guard" with over 200 requests for permits for new larger than life barns that flooded the agency over the last 2 years. What we saw was a person in a position listening and himself faced with the fact our state, our people and our water is sitting out here unprotected from this invasion.
But for the next month, he has the keys, and as he listened, I had hope he would use what power he has to cease, stall or in some way inhibit the expansion. I have that hope because people came, spoke up, shared their feelings and filled every chair in that facility, and were treated with respect. That is the least we can ever hope for, but the bigger hope is he will take that back and do what he can now in his remaining days. The other hope is the person who fills that seat next might be chosen carefully.
I grew up in West Texas, but my dad was from Vinita, had land in Craig County and knew when he retired he would return to live. I remember his 2 brothers taking turns calling him on the single phone in the hallway, telling him to hurry up and move back because all their friends were "dying like flies" and they needed his help attending all the funerals.
I am at the same age he was when he got those calls, and it is happening to me now, too, people dying like flies. But my regrets lie more for the fact many of those dying remind me that we must be an affected people, lately I am losing former students and even the children of former students. What affects us? our habits, our choices, but the wider environment we can do little to control, but if it could be making us sick, we must do what we can to make those who could improve it, DO IT.
We can learn from these senior officials the art of listening. We can reach out this season, let another person into your circle. Go to parades, breathe cold air deeply, enjoy the life you have, fight for another day even better than this one.
LEAD will be entering the parades this year, watch for the Jeep with the kayaks on top and the message: We Want Clean Water! That's what we want for Christmas!
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim