Wednesday, January 5, 2011
SHAWNEE, Okla. — In five days, Oklahoma voters will experience a historic moment they made possible in November by electing the state’s first woman to serve as governor.
On Jan. 10, Gov.-elect Mary Fallin, who calls Tecumseh her hometown, will be sworn into office on the south steps of the state capitol in Oklahoma City.
But Fallin said she believes voters chose her not for her gender but for her commitment to address some of the toughest issues facing Oklahomans today.
“It’s a very historic time and I take great pride in this big step forward for Oklahoma,” she said. “But in the end, I believe the voters looked at my experience and vision when electing me.”
However, Fallin said being a woman likely will have some effect on how she governs the state.
“My life experiences and work experiences bring a different type of leadership skills to the job as governor,” she said. “My experience as a businesswoman and a single mom gave me experience with balancing a budget and balancing work and family. It will help me when I’m working to make government more efficient.”
Fallin said her experiences also help her understand what is most important to Oklahomans.
“The people work very hard for their money and they want to keep as much of it as possible in their pockets,” she said. “They’ve struggled for several years. My experiences give me a very unique perspective on how we can better the future of Oklahoma for all Oklahomans.”
The governor-elect said her home community also will play an important role in how she leads the state toward an improved future.
“I had a wonderful life growing up in Pottawatomie County and going to school in Tecumseh and Shawnee,” she said. “The values I have, I received from my family and friends...I won’t forget my hometown.”
With several events, both private and public, set to celebrate Fallin’s inauguration, she said her family has been very busy but has enjoyed the preparations, as well.
“My children and Wade [Christensen’s] children are very excited,” she said. “We have six children between us. Just getting clothes ready is a challenge but my husband has been a big help.”
Fallin said Christensen has assisted the couple’s sons with selecting tuxedos and “fun bow ties” for upcoming ceremonies, while she has been helping the couple’s two daughters — one his and one hers — with selecting dresses. She said it has been “fun to watch” the men making their selections and although the preparations have “been expensive,” it has been a good experience.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” she said.
She also said she will incorporate the talents of many of her friends from Pottawatomie County in her inaugural ceremonies, including Ronnye Sharp, Tecumseh, who taught her to play piano.
“Ronnye will play several solos at the prayer service,” she said. “I wanted to highlight my area...those from my community. They supported me so much.”
But Fallin said no matter how busy and fun the preparations for the inaugural ceremonies are, she hasn’t forgotten the seriousness of the need for food for many Oklahomans.
“We started the inauguration with a food drive,” she said. “This is a very historic time to celebrate but it is a hard time for many Oklahomans.”
Fallin said the economic downturn has affected food pantries throughout the state but the food drive, which was launched Dec. 1, has brought in “thousands of pounds of food” to replenish those supplies.
Still, she said those efforts should continue beyond her inauguration.
“We never want to forget that people are hungry,” she said.