By Conrad Dudderar
A three-term Canadian County commissioner took his oath this week as an incoming “freshman” member of the Oklahoma State Senate.
Yukon’s Jack Stewart officially takes office Nov. 23 to begin the next four-year term in the 48-member Senate.
Stewart was among newly elected senators who participated in an oath of office ceremony Nov. 16 at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Darby administered the oath.
“I’ve worked hard for this and am looking forward to doing the job,” Stewart said after receiving his Senate pin from Senate President Greg Treat. “I’m very, very humbled and honored to have been chosen to serve as the ‘voice’ for Senate District 18.”
The next four-year term officially starts Nov. 23.
Having spent the past 12-1/2 years as Canadian County’s District 3 commissioner, Stewart looks forward to continuing his public service for the citizens of Canadian County and the State of Oklahoma.
“I bring a unique skillset to the Capitol being an engineer and having worked at both the state and county level, as well as in the private sector,” the incoming senator said.
“I’m looking forward to utilizing my over 40 years of civil engineering expertise to further develop and improve our state’s transportation system and infrastructure through comprehensive planning and prioritization to better support the business community and grow our economy.”
Stewart was elected this summer to represent Senate District 18, which is moving from eastern Oklahoma after legislative redistricting.
He defeated Hunter Zearley by a 54.8% vote majority (4,160-3,431) to win the June 28th Republican primary election. No other candidate filed.
“My other priorities will be defending our constitutional freedoms that have come under attack in recent years while protecting the unborn and others who don’t have a voice,” Stewart said.
“I’ll work to expand economic opportunities and help give Oklahomans the tools they need to pursue those opportunities, which starts by strengthening our education system.”
Stewart will represent the “new” District 18 seat that will now cover eastern Canadian County – including most of Yukon – and western Oklahoma County.
The seat has been held by Sen. Kim David, who could not seek another term due to term limits. Oklahoma’s state senators may not serve more than three consecutive, four-year terms.
District 18 has covered parts of Cherokee, Mayes, Muskogee, Tulsa, and Wagoner counties.
Stewart is among eight incoming state senators.
The others are District 2 (Ally Seifried, R-Claremore), District 4 (Tom Woods, R. Westville), District 12 (Todd Gollihare, R-Kellyville), District 14 (Jerry Alvard, R-Lone Grove), District 22 (Kristen Thompson, R-Edmond), District 28 (Grant Green, R-Wellston), and District 34 (Dana Prieto, R-Tulsa).
The new senators were assigned their offices at Oklahoma’s State Capitol, which has undergone extensive renovations in recent years.
“I am so glad that it’s finished; I have made so many trips up here over the years,” said Stewart, who previously worked 31 years with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.
“They finished it just in time for me. And that’s been really great.”
Sen.-elect Stewart has been welcomed with open arms by other Oklahoma senators.
“It’s been a phenomenal reception,” he said. “They have taken me in more so than a family would take you in.
“Everyone who I’ve talked to has told me, ‘If you need anything, call me. I want to be the one you call’.”
The Senate will convene the 2023 legislative session on Feb. 6, 2023, following the constitutionally mandated organizational day on Jan. 3 when leadership will be formally elected and rules adopted.
Family members, close friends and supporters came to the Oklahoma State Capitol on Nov. 16 to watch Stewart recite the oath of office as new District 18 senator on the Senate floor.
He described Jan, his wife of 46 years, as his “number one supporter in the world.”
The Stewarts have three daughters, Lisa, Dina and Maryann, all of whom have pursued careers in education. The family attends Covenant Community Church in Yukon.
Canadian County elected officers attending the ceremony were District 2 Commissioner Dave Anderson, County Clerk Sherry Murray, County Assessor Matt Wehmuller, County Treasurer Jay Arnold, and District 3 Commissioner-elect Tracey Rider.
During his time as a Canadian County commissioner, Stewart has overseen the design, construction and maintenance of more than 300 miles of roadway.
Stewart is helping his successor transition to her new role as a Canadian County officer.
Rider, also elected in June’s Republican primary, is expected to take office next week after Stewart steps down as District 3 commissioner. A Canadian County native, she has served on the El Reno City Council.
The next four-year term for county officers starts Jan. 1, 2023, but Rider will get an early start since Stewart is vacating the seat before the current term ends.
Stewart has served as the chair of the Canadian County Long-Term Disaster Recovery Committee, president of the Oklahoma Traffic Engineers Association and as a member of the Central Oklahoma Water Resources Authority, the Yukon Veterans Museum board, and as Canadian County’s representative on the Central Oklahoma Work Force Innovation Board, among many other community organizations.
While at ODOT, Stewart served as maintenance engineer overseeing the personnel, equipment and materials for all state highway projects in his nine-county division.
Stewart then worked with one of the nation’s largest engineering firms, Carter and Burgess, for another five years and also served on the Yukon Traffic Commission. He was elected Canadian County’s District 3 commissioner in April 2010, succeeding the late Grant Hedrick Jr.
Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell presided over the Nov. 16th oath of office ceremony, commending Oklahoma’s newly elected senators for their efforts.
“The desire of your heart is to be here to represent your districts,” Pinnell told the group.
All senators – including Republicans, Democrats and Independents – must work together to “make this state the best state to live work and play – particularly for the next generation,” he added.
“I hope you lead that way this legislative session.”
All 24 even-numbered Senate seats were up for election in 2022.
“This is servant leadership, which you are about to do in this building,” Lt. Pinnell reminded Stewart and other new senators. “Thank you for the decisions you have made, and your family has made with you to make this day possible.”
“Don’t ever put this job above that family. I have had the honor of serving as the lieutenant governor for four years. And I can tell you, I’ve never regretted saying ‘no’ – to a meeting or drinks after work – to get home early to make sure I’m sitting at my dinner table with my family.”
Pinnell assured Oklahoma’s newly elected senators they will remain busy – both at the state Capitol and at home.
“But don’t ever put this job in front of that family that is sitting next to you right now or may be in the rafters today,” he emphasized. “Finally, I would tell you, do not let your sense of self be replaced with your sense of job. When this job is over, you don’t want to lose that self.
“Make sure there’s still a separation in what we do here, and also what we do representing our district.”