Monday, August 24, 2015

Remembering Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Mark Costello


During the 2010 Oklahoma elections, ROPE supported Mark Costello for Labor Commissioner because Mark was a small business entrepreneur, having founded American Computer and Telephone (AMCAT) in 1991, which he sold in 2007, after which he started USA Digital Communications. Mark knew business and understood labor issues. Who else better to run the Department of Labor?

Following the election, Julia, Lynn and I would often run into Mark while at the Capitol lobbying or at a Republican event and we grew to know him personally. I laugh because, for probably the first year we knew him, he knew me as 'Janet'. He'd come across the room sometimes with a big smile on his face, hand extended, to say, "Hello Janet!" I'll never forget that. I'd correct him with a laugh, he'd laugh with me, and we'd assure one another that one day he'd get it right'. I loved that about him - he was just a regular guy - a regular guy who seemed happy to see you and enjoy the company of others.

Often, we'd see Mark someplace we were speaking about Common Core and eventually we began to have conversations about the issue. Not only as Labor Commissioner, but as an employer, Mark had become genuinely concerned that Common Core was not 'OK' for the future of Oklahoma businesses. As an entrepreneur himself, I believe he really understood the necessity for students to get an education well-rounded enough to allow them to develop their creativity - creativity which can easily become initiative; a foundation of entrepreneurial spirit. An education not dictated by a 'common' set of educational standards, but one that would help foster the individuality of all kids.

Last year, as the fight against Common Core was coming to a crescendo, Mark penned an op-ed against Common Core read by many thousands of people, that we all believe helped turn the tide in our favor. In it, he penned the following paragraph
Common Core is to education what Obamacare is to health, a centralized government process that strips local control away from parents, teachers, and school boards. Why the push by large non-profits to establish national education standards? Some have asserted the concept of “mass production” will lower per unit costs. In other words, the God given individual qualities and talents of each child will be restructured by a nationalized production process guided from a top down political structure.
He didn't write these words because we asked him to, he wrote them because he believed them. 

After having had the sheer pleasure of knowing Mark socially for the past five years, I can attest that he was not only a true conservative - one who didn't simply spout the dictionary definition, but possessed a real working understanding of the concept - but an unapologetic Christian as well. When he spoke out for school choice and against Common Core, it wasn't simply out of a concern that Oklahoma would squelch the entrepreneurial spirit in our youngest citizens, but that students would not be allowed to follow their God-given talents and abilities to the best degree without the broadest form of educational possibility. 

Words cannot possibly give due the sadness we all feel at Mark's passing. He was a wonderful man of whom we have many fond memories, but he was also a boundless force for good in this state. He will be missed many times over throughout many circles, countless groups and among many individuals all across Oklahoma.

Our continued and constant thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Cathy and all their children for peace at this tragic time. 

Thank you Mark Costello for your life, your service, your leadership, your tireless fight for right and your friendship to so many. From what I knew of Mark, the words of Shakespeare (Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 2) would be appreciated here and so I will close:
We defy augury. There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come—the readiness is all. Since no man of aught he leaves knows, what is ’t to leave betimes? Let be.