While she was pleased to emerge from the Nov. 2 general election with a narrow victory in the state House District 66 race to replace the outgoing Lucky Lamons, Sand Springs Republican Jadine Nollan couldn't help but feel a twinge of regret at the same time.
A longtime member of the Sand Springs school board, she was forced to resign that position just days after her election when the vote was certified. State law prohibits anyone from holding two elected positions.
Nollan also has left her job as executive director of Sand Springs Community Services Inc., an organization that provides food, referrals, social services and education to the needy, in order to concentrate on her duties at the Capitol.
"Both of these jobs -- I've really enjoyed serving the people of this community," she said. "This is bittersweet, but sometimes you have to let go of one thing to embrace something new."
Come January, Nollan will begin serving the community as a state representative. But this time, her constituency will be considerably larger and have a much broader range of interests. House District 66 ranks as perhaps the most diverse in the region, if not the state, stretching from Sand Springs on the west to the Pearl District on the east, encompassing downtown Tulsa and bordering the Arkansas River for much of its length.
Nollan -- who eked out a victory over Democratic challenger Eli Potts earlier this month, capturing 51 percent of the vote to his 49 percent -- said there's a wide range of opinions to be found in virtually every district in the state. But she realizes she'll have her hands full striking a balance between those she's heard expressed in hers.
"District 66 is very diverse, so I do believe I may have heard even a wider variety (of concerns) than a lot of representatives," she said of her door-to-door visits with residents during the recently concluded campaign.
"The views were very diverse -- one extreme to the other," she said. "Everything from ultra-conservative to more liberal views, as well. It was interesting having the opportunity to visit with that many people, as well."
After her service on the school board and her experience with Sand Springs Community Services, Nollan is well versed in the challenges facing her blue-collar hometown of Sand Springs, a place where many families struggle to make ends meet. But she'll have to quickly bring herself up to speed on issues in the rest of the district, as well -- downtown Tulsa, which is attracting a growing number of younger residents interested in a compact, urban lifestyle; the Pearl District, which is aggressively trying to reverse decades of decay and reinvent itself as a sustainable, walkable neighborhood where mixed-use development is the norm; and the comparatively affluent areas just south of downtown, including the Riverview Neighborhood, where historic preservation issues are key.
"I'm going to have my work cut out for me as far as being able to serve and represent those people," she said.
Her plan for meeting that challenge is a simple one.
"My specific strategy would be this: I plan to be very active in District 66," she said. "I've already been very active in Sand Springs, but in District 66, my plan is to be very involved in neighborhood associations, in the chamber and in civic organizations. I think that's how you really get to know people, is being there in the grassroots. I really want to be there, reach out and be part of their lives so I can better represent them when I go to the Capitol."
Nollan said almost all her constituents are concerned about the economy, jobs and education, but she noted some residents of the district were far more concerned about public safety issues than others.
She said she's already been contacted by the Republican leadership in the House of the Representatives, including new Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, and looks forward to working with the other 69 GOP members of the House.
"That's a pretty big number," she said. "One thing I would like to see is 70 people working together. Hopefully, we'll have the checks and balances we need to go forward in a positive way. I know there will be a variety of priorities and issues."
Nollan said she wasn't ready to talk about what kinds of legislation she might be introducing during her first session, but she noted her party's leaders are pressing Republican representatives to submit their ideas for their bills soon.
"There are a few people I've been talking to about working on bills together," she said. "I'm very open to their ideas."
The Capitol newcomer said her main concern would be supporting legislation that improves the efficiency and effectiveness of state government, and she noted the budget difficulties lawmakers will face during the next session are likely to be extreme.
"The stimulus money really helped us, but there won't be any more of that," she said. "We really need to look at what we can do for common education. Being around the (school) board table, I've seen that's a big issue in every county in Oklahoma."
Nollan said she hasn't given much thought to how long a career she'd like to have in the Legislature, but she said she plans to pursue the job with a great deal of intensity.
"I intend to do a good job," she said. "I don't mind pursuing new thing. In fact, I enjoy the learning part of it. I don't plan to be a career politician. I've never thought of myself as a politician at all, so it's weird when someone refers to me as a politician. But I do plan to be good at it."
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