Editor’s note: Candidates for state and national offices on the ballot for the August 28 runoff election were invited to respond to questions for profiles in The Ardmoreite. Those who chose to respond will be featured alongside their ballot opponent. For those that did not participate, basic information will be provided.
I received my degree from the University of Kansas where I met my husband, Mark Costello. We raised our five children in Edmond. In the early years, I was a classroom teacher. I started my first business in high school to fund my college education, learning at an early age that work affords its own reward. Together, Mark and I launched eight businesses in six industries around the world, creating jobs for more than 100 people.
Mark served as Oklahoma’s Labor Commissioner from 2011 until 2015, when he was tragically killed at the hands of our mentally ill son. I made the choice to use our tragedy to help others. I am a national speaker on mental health issues and have been instrumental in passing landmark state and federal legislation to improve how we address mental health needs in our communities, health care approaches and the workplace.
Why are you running for this office?
I have firsthand knowledge of the struggles faced by employers and employees alike. I know what it’s like to reach into my own pocket to make a payroll, provide health insurance and worker’s comp. I am the only candidate in this race that has made a million-dollar payroll and created two hundred million in revenue. I believe that labor – work brings dignity to who we are, meeting our physical needs as well as our spiritual needs, because God calls each of us to be productive. A Labor Commissioner must have a genuine passion for the value of labor.
I have had a unique 5-year insight to the Department of Labor. We need a Labor Commissioner who is steadfast in conservative principles, eager and able to protect the workers of Oklahoma from over-reaching regulation, and ready to stand firm against aggressive labor unions with radically liberal political agendas.
What do you think are the top three challenges facing our state?
(In terms of Labor, Oklahoma must address three critical issues:)
1. Oklahoma’s occupational fatality rate is the eighth worst in the nation. If our next Labor Commissioner comes into office believing Oklahoma is leading the country in workplace safety - that’s dangerous. My goal in working with employers will always be safety compliance and accident prevention - not punishment.
2. We must recognize mental health as a bona fide labor issue. Mental illness costs Oklahoma employers an additional 600 million dollars each year, is the leading cause of work performance loss, the 2nd leading cause of absenteeism and in two years will replace injuries as the leading cause of disability claims.
3. We must reform unnecessary occupational licensing regulations that put an unfair burden on workers and create obstacles to employment. Frivolous licenses diminish the value of true licenses which reflect a level of instruction, knowledge and consumer protection.
What are your top five priorities to address while in office?
1. Mental Health in the Workplace: As a critical labor issue, I am compiling a Task Force to find solutions.
2. Workplace Safety: I will proactively assist companies with safety issues and encourage them to join the voluntary and underutilized “Safety Pays” consultation program at no cost to employers to reduce injuries and death in the workplace.
3. Occupational Licensing: Some occupations need oversight. For others, licensing is just a labor tax. I’ll eliminate superfluous licensing that does nothing for the employee or consumer.
4. Firefighter Cancer: Firefighters have certain cancer risks that are more than double the national average. I plan to get them the protective gear they need.
5. Protect Right-to-Work: The AFL-CIO and other leftist Progressive Labor Unions spent $16 Million to defeat Right-to-Work in Missouri this month. Their next goal is to overturn our Right-to-Work law and re-establish Union Bosses as power brokers in Oklahoma. I won’t let that happen.
When faced with a specific situation that puts your personal viewpoint at odds with a great many of your constituents, what decision do you make and why?
My decision-making process is actually very predictable because I scrutinize all public policy through two lenses - the Constitution and my faith in God. If a policy violates the principles of either of those, I will oppose it.
Of course, I will have a statutory obligation to enforce the laws as written, and I fully intend to do that. I am perfectly capable of enforcing policies I don’t like - as long as they are fair and moral. I absolutely believe in the principle of compromise, but I will never compromise my principles.