Rep. Jason Murphey
Special to The Sun
Before this year’s legislative session, pundits opined about the divided Republican caucus in the House. The 2012 session had not been an easy one and those pundits enjoyed pointing to the allegedly fractured group of Republican representatives and perhaps predicting ensuing chaos. Those predictions did not come true in part due to extremely effective leadership by new House Speaker T.W. Shannon.
Shannon is an extremely hard worker and perhaps no example better demonstrates this point than his effective use of social media. Prior to becoming speaker, Shannon told me he read a book about how to provide the social media reader with true value. Not only did Shannon become the first Speaker of the House to use Twitter, he continues to personally interact with the public through his personal Twitter account instead of handing the task to a staff member.
Early on the morning of April 16, Oklahomans were awakened to the shaking of an earthquake. A person could quickly confirm the quake by going to Twitter and noting that a member of the Capitol press corps had asked House Speaker T.W. Shannon if he had felt the quake. Shannon immediately responded.
I think it is amazing that a member of the press can now question one of Oklahoma’s most powerful elected officials in an impromptu public conversation at 5:29 in the morning.
Since the Speaker of the House is not confined to voting on the floor, previous Speakers could easily camp out in their office, effectively cutting themselves off from the public. The office is stocked with everything its resident might need, allowing him hide out for days at a time. It’s too easy for the speaker to disappear into the speaker bunker, handing off the mundane and even painful task of dealing with other representatives to his subordinates. This results in other representatives becoming discontented and lashing out.
Instead of hiding within the speaker bunker, Shannon frequently takes to the House floor to spend time with the other representatives. By simply being directly accessible, Shannon addresses problems as they arise, successfully putting out political fires before they even start.
You can see for yourself by watching the video feed at hd31.org/501 where you will see a Democrat state representative query another representative about a routine bill that required a report to be filed with the speaker’s office. When the Democrat asked about the speaker’s report, he instinctively pointed to Shannon who happened to be standing about a foot away. Instead of talking about an abstract person bunkered down somewhere else, the representative was discussing someone who was completely accessible and standing inches away.
This incident took place the day before session ended after the Democrats had repeatedly attempted to place a wedge between Republicans and create doubt in leadership.
Politicians often rule through fear. Shannon governs through friendships. Governing through fear is lazy leadership, whereas taking the time to build and maintain friendships is really hard work.
This was one of the foremost secrets to the success of this year’s session and the reason those stories about a divided Republican caucus have mostly disappeared for the time being. Now you know the “rest of the story” that you may not read about anywhere else.
You can follow Shannon on Facebook at facebook.com/twshannon and Twitter @twshannon.
REP. JASON MURPHEY, R-Guthrie, represents House District 31, which encompasses all of Logan County and a portion of northern Edmond. He may be reached via email at email@example.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/JasonMurphey and Twitter.com/JWMurphey.