By Tonya Little
Andy Fugate, who grew up in Del City, has a passion and drive to see not only this community, but also the entire state of Oklahoma, improve and become the best that it can be. This is why he has decided to run for the House District 94, and also why his campaign motto is “Together, we can build a better Oklahoma.”
These are not just empty words to Fugate, it is how he already lives his life. Fugate is heavily involved in the community and giving back to it in an effort to improve the quality of life for all Oklahomans. Fugate serves as president of the Mid-Del Public Schools Foundation. He is a member of the Del City Rotary Club and was recently named president. Fugate is also a member of the Oklahoma City Jazz Orchestra’s board, and plays with the Mid-Del Jazz Orchestra as well. He’s serves as a tutor at local schools for a number of years, and also serves with a group called Oklahoma Close Up.
For the past 32 years, Fugate has taken high school kids to the state capital every spring through the Close Up program, to get a chance to see government in action. In fact, Fugate’s involvement with the Close Up program is a large part in why he chose to run for the House.
“Deciding to run stems really from my work with the kids in the Close Up program,” explained Fugate. “Every year I challenge the kids coming out of the program to go home and make a difference in their communities, and the last several years that’s kind of been gnawing at me a bit because one of our graduating seniors asked me ‘ok, now what?’ But that just kind of kept gnawing at me, this now what? Now what?”
That question from the senior coming out of the Close Up program also sparked Fugate to help create a new program in the last year to help answer that question, called NexGen DC. This new program is all about connecting post high school kids who have a connection to the Del City community and providing them with a way to participate in politics, current events and things that are going on in the city and doing it in a positive and meaningful way. Both Oklahoma Close Up and NextGen DC are nonpartisan programs.
“The basic idea is instead of having them go gripe on Twitter, if we can get them involved in the process then they can provide input from their perspective about things that are going on. They can build relationships and we can keep them connected in the community and won’t lose them,” explained Fugate. “That was part of the off shoot, and just over the past couple of years I’ve been watching the dysfunction that’s been happening at the state capital and this past year’s as bad as it has ever been.”
Fugate also has many different ideas on how to improve Oklahoma and make it a better place to live and grow in. These key topics for his platform include investing in the future of Oklahoma, empowering teachers, increasing teacher pay, funding classrooms, funding hospitals and changing things like the structure of the prison systems and how heavily and overzealously we incarcerate people when there may be better options. Fugate not only has had a hand personally in education from being involved in the school board and directly in the schools, but his wife Jamie has also been a teacher for the last 15 years, giving him even more insight into the problems with our education system in the state.
“I think it’s more important to look at the quality of life in several different areas, starting with education. Education really is the economic engine of our future. For the state of Oklahoma, for us to be successful, we have to have well educated people,” said Fugate.
Fugate also says this goes beyond having pockets of good schools that are successful around the state, but that there needs to be success across the board so that it doesn’t matter where you live, you have the opportunity for quality education. He also believes that for any business to grow and thrive, they typically do market salary surveys to offer competitive pay in order to retain quality employees, and yet our teachers are some of the most underpaid in the United States. This is why we as a state tend to lose our best teachers, who move in order to be paid more fairly for the work that they do.
“We need to be looking at teachers as a prime resource for us, and we need to be figuring out how to get our best and brightest in our classrooms working with our kids, and not warehousing kids,” Fugate said.
Fugate kicked off his campaign July 29 at the Sunny Lane United Methodist Church, where Representative Scott Inman introduced and endorsed him for the position. The Democratic House Minority Leader actually met Fugate, a Democrat, through the Oklahoma Close Up program when he himself was a high school student who was involved.
“Andy made me, who already loved this state, love it even more, who already loved politics, love it even more and he’s done it for decades. Not by getting paid, but just because he cared about doing something for the kids in this state,” said Inman during his speech at the event.
Fugate graduated from Del City High School in 1984, and he and his wife chose to stay and raise their two children in the community as well. Fugate is familiar with the district and the challenges and needs it has within it. He also has people on both sides of the aisle at the capital that he knows and respects, having been actively involved there for the last three decades. Fugate has spent those years observing what’s going on in the legislature and making relationships with people there.
“I’m passionate about Del City, I love the community. I love to solve problems, I like doing meaningful things. I like working together with other people to do those. I relish working on hard problems and Lord knows there are a bunch of those facing this state, and you know I’m not proud enough to believe that I have the answers, but I’m willing to work together,” said Fugate.
The next step in the campaign process for Fugate is to get out into the community and start knocking on doors and meeting people. He has a number of people who have volunteered to help him in that process as well. Fugate is a firm believer that there are three roles that a legislature has. One is to be an advocate out at the state capital. Another is to be working with people in the community assisting them with problems, it’s helpful when you can pick up your phone and you can call your representative and they can help you navigate the challenges that exists in all the rules that are in the state government. The third thing is being out in the community and talking to people, discussing what’s going on at the capital.
As a legislature, Fugate believes that you should be more well-informed than the average person in your district about what’s going on at the state capital. By the same token he also believes that there are people in the district, in each district in the state, that have areas of expertise that far exceed any legislature out there. So if he has a question about a tax related issue he can pick up the phone and call one of them at their business and ask questions.
“To me that’s the number one best way to offset the rise of power that we’ve seen in corporate lobbyists, and that’s to have those relationships in your communities where you can pick up the phone and can speak to expertise in your district,” said Fugate. “So that’s what the next step is, is being out on the door steps. Introducing myself and getting to know them, and hearing their concerns. If you are out there representing those people and you don’t know what they think, you have a real problem.”
The campaign process is a lengthy one and this is just the beginning of it all for Fugate and his team. He definitely seems up to the challenge of the campaign process and working towards securing his seat in the House for District 94. You can find out more about Fugate and his campaign on his website at www.andyfugate.com.