Oklahoma home builder Kenyon Woods brought a secret weapon with him as he joined 110 other state home builders for OSHBA’s annual Capitol Day of lobbying legislators.

He brought a pair of 11-year-old “junior lobbyists” that no legislator could resist.

Kenyon’s son Kaeden Woods and his friend Cole Spence accompanied Kenyon and Steve Allen, OSHBA vice president/secretary, on a quest to engage as many lawmakers as possible on behalf of legislation the home builders support.

The ploy paid immediate dividends when State Sen. Stephanie Bice (R-Edmond) saw the boys standing outside her office as she was rushing off to a legislative meeting. She stopped and introduced herself to the boys and their adult fellow lobbyists.

Bice gladly accepted the information card the boys offered, then offered to talk to the group again after her meeting concluded.

Later, the quartet reconnected with Bice and took advantage of the opportunity to talk about their Capitol Day mission. Bice then gave them a personal tour of the Senate floor.

Woods’ group eventually met Sen. David Holt (R-Oklahoma City) and Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb before their tour ended. Holt even discussed with Kaeden and Cole what some of the issues were that surrounded the legislation listed on the OSHBA card they handed him.

“I thought it was great for the boys because they actually got to see how things work,” Kenyon Woods said of the Capitol Day event. “You talk about it in school, but they actually got to see how things work and what you do when you go lobbying.”

As for the adult home builders walking the legislative halls of the Capitol, the OSHBA event provided ample opportunity to meet their lawmakers and discuss important issues of the day.

“It was great to see how many of our members were involved in helping our industry keep homes in Oklahoma affordable for the average Oklahoman,” said OSHBA President Dan Reeves.

Reeves said that the turnout for Capitol Day more than doubled that of the previous year, despite massive thunderstorms that rolled across the state the night before and through the early morning of the event.

The Capitol Day kicked off with a briefing in a fifth-floor conference room before OSHBA contingent scattered across the building, going office to office meeting both senators and representatives.

“We are hoping that the lawmakers recognized that the home building industry took a hard hit during the recession and is still feeling the affects of the oil and gas downturn,” Reeves said. “The last thing our industry needs is to see an increase in the cost of our mission to build safe and affordable housing in Oklahoma.”

Not only did the Capitol Day leave a big impression on lawmakers who were engaged by the lobbyists, but home builders took away their own important lessons.

“I was able to visit with Sen. (Tom) Dugger as well as Rep. Dennis Casey,” said Connie Stokes, President of the Stillwater Home Builders Association. “Rep. Casey spent about 30 minutes with us and gave us his cell number. He encouraged us to call him if we needed anything. It was a very promising and successful day.”

Erin DeWeese, vice president/secretary of the Home Builders Association of Greater Tulsa, was among about two dozen Tulsa home builders who bused down the Turner Turnpike for the event.

“Since this was my first year, I didn’t really know what to expect, but I will definitely attend this event in the future,” DeWeese said. “I will also encourage other members to attend. Unfortunately, my senator and representative were not in the building, but I did leave cards in their offices with my name and email.”

Even when no direct connections were made with lawmakers, the event made a lasting impression of an engaged, active organization that filled the legislative hallways with members adding their voices to important legislation.

Sometimes, the dialogue paid off in unexpected ways. Sen. Bice invited both Kaeden Woods and Cole Spence up on the podium on the Senate floor and put the Speaker’s gavel in their hands.

It was a picture of Oklahoma’s future.

“I think having the boys walk the halls left an impression on the legislators that these and future issues affect generations to come,” Allen said. “It’s not often that children walk the halls for issues. It was a great, effective way to lobby.”

More Home Builder Perspectives On OSHBA Capitol Day
Connie Stokes, Stillwater: “This was my fourth year to attend our OSHBA legislative day at the Capitol. It was so exciting to see so many builders there. Mike (Means) prepared some great cards with the details of issues on which we were concerned, which was a huge help. The senators and representatives that we talked to seemed to appreciate the information.”

Erin DeWeese, Tulsa: “This was my first year to attend. I was impressed with the number of people that attended and the talking point cards were perfect.”

Steve Shoemaker, Oklahoma City: “This was my first time participating in Capitol Day. After my experience, this event is a must-attend event in the future for myself and our team. I was impressed by the number of people that turned out. We were well received from all the legislators and their staff. My big takeaway is that Oklahoma is a great place to live and work. We may not always agree on every decision, but our state leaders have the interest of our citizens at heart. We need to continue to show them the benefits to the state from a pro-home building stance on important issues.”

Kenyon Woods, Oklahoma City: It’s great to be able to get everybody down there to let everyone know how important things and issues are to us. They can see we are doing anything possible to help our own industry.”

Steve Allen, OSHBA vice president/secretary: “I think the legislators were impressed with our turnout. All seemed on board with our beliefs on the issues. They all loved the talking points cards. I hope they see that we are a unified group committed to growing our industry and to keeping housing affordable. As for our members who participated, I hope they learned that they do have a voice that matters and they can be confident that OSHBA is committed to serving the interest of our industry at the Capitol.”

Dan Reeves, OSHBA President: I hope our members came away understanding the process for how our system works to make laws and how their participation and voice help lawmakers to understand how these different bills can affect our industry and the citizens of Oklahoma.”