Tragedy awakens resilience. More importantly, tragedy awakens passion. My childhood resembled that of many Oklahoma children – one in which politics wasn’t typically discussed. Federal, state, and local politics were simply a function that existed.
In 2011, my younger brother took his own life at the young age of 18. Only those who have lost family abruptly, without cause, and without closure could ever understand the internal struggles that begin to ensue for the remaining family members. My brother, Joe, had spent many of his 18 years battling bi-polar depression. My family had experienced it all with him: the highs, lows, poor doctors, and incorrect prescriptions and doses. Mental health is a struggle that comes with a stigma and little support. This tragedy is what propelled me; it awakened my passion. I needed to help and serve others – to make the world a little better and to make life easier for anyone like Joe.
At the time of my brother’s suicide, I was a student at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. It took an event like this to finally push me to do more research on mental health in my home state of Oklahoma. It led me to find that our state was ranked lowest in mental health funding. It didn’t stop there. We were also ranked lowest in general health care, education, and overall quality of life. This means that people weren’t getting the treatment they needed fast enough to make a difference. It means more casualties, more loss, and more families experiencing the suffering that mine had been through. As a student, I first began to casually contemplate getting involved in politics – I felt like it would be proactive way to make a difference. I could change funding. I could change lives.
In 2011, I graduated with my undergraduate degree in English from SMU. My brother had always encouraged me to tryout for the NFL. With this motivation, I tried out for the National Football League and ended up getting recruited to the United States Bobsledding Team. Less than a month later, I was training on the 4-man USA Bobsled team in Lake Placid, New York. Through my travels, I learned a lot about other countries. I took note of their political systems, health care programs, and overall quality of life. However, in 2014 I decided it was time to return to Oklahoma.
After working in the Oklahoma oil patch as a roughneck for more than a year, I knew I was ready to begin making a difference; the way Joe would’ve wanted. I recalled that my teachers were some of the most impactful individuals I’d had in my life. Many of my teachers were driving forces to my success in my younger years. I felt that I could make an impact in this way. I could help students achieve their goals and become a mentor. I was offered a position to teach at U.S. Grant High School in South Oklahoma City. After connecting with my students, receiving positive feedback from administration, and feeling like I was truly making a difference, I purchased my first home just blocks from the school. I knew I had found my calling. But as previously noted, tragedy awakens resilience. In 2016, my teaching position was eliminated due to state wide budget cuts to education. My principal called me into his office to let me know that myself and over 800 other teachers in Oklahoma were losing their jobs. Yet again, the state was failing its citizens.
I began to immediately see the necessary course of actions. I had to change the way our state functioned. Signs of successful economies include valuing arts, education, and taking care of those who can’t care for themselves. Oklahoma was failing at all the above. I launched my campaign for State Representative of District 93, which includes U.S. Grant High School. I focused on 3 issues: funding education, creating more jobs, and improving our mental health services. These were my passions and issues that had affected my family and families across Oklahoma. I’m proud to have been successful elected to serve my former students and their families.
I recently wrapped up my first session in the legislature. While I learned a lot, there is still so much to do. I take pride in being available to my constituency and carving out time to listen to their ideas and concerns. I have Friday morning breakfasts, dinners, and motorcycle rides with my constituents in HD93. I personally respond to their emails and phone calls. This helps me understand how they would vote on the issues and makes me a better Representative on their behalf. I firmly believe in communication and transparency. I want the families in my district to understand how decisions at our capital affect them. I hope families in my district are having those difficult conversations at their dinner tables. I want to be available to answer any of their questions and fight for their values.
I was elected to serve the people of Oklahoma's House District 93 in November of 2016; about 5 years since Joe’s passing. It’s been a long journey, but I know I am finally where I need to be to make a difference.
- Representative Mickey Dollens