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For executive assistant, Oklahoma Capitol has been second home since 1965

Donna Garlick, 73, retired once from her job at the Oklahoma Capitol, but that only lasted for two and a half years.
by Bryan Painter Published: February 4, 2013

Donna Garlick stands with her hand resting on the marble rail along the rotunda of the state Capitol.

First, Garlick, 73, looks toward murals painted by Charles Banks Wilson.

Then she glances up at the dome.

The Madill native has been at the Capitol longer than either of these features, the murals or the dome.

Today, Garlick is the legislative executive assistant to Senate Minority Leader Sean Burrage, D-Claremore. But through the years, she has worked for six senators, including one who, after leaving the Senate, was elected to the state House.

Her service also includes having worked for four senators who served as president pro tem, or the Senate's leader.

“I really believe, except for sleeping, I've spent more time here than any other place in my life,” said Garlick, of Oklahoma City. “I haven't figured it for sure, but I'm convinced of that.”

When she started, legislative sessions were not yet held annually. So in the off-time, she worked as a secretary for the Oklahoma Press Association. Garlick's only other significant period of separation from the Capitol came in the early 1980s.

“I actually retired once,” she said, smiling. “It was in 1981 when Senator Gene Howard retired. That lasted 21/2 years. Then Jim Hamilton ran for the House of Representatives. I had worked for him when he was the president pro tempore in the Senate. Then he later asked me to come back to work for him when he was elected to the House, which I did.”

Although the Capitol may be her second home, Garlick likes to remind Oklahomans to whom it belongs.

“I think the people probably don't realize that the Capitol belongs to them and that we all work for them and are paid with their money,” she said. “And I think they keep us probably to a higher standard to earn that money, which I feel like that is certainly what we should do. We should put in our hours, do everything we can to make their lives better if they have a problem, or get information to them if they want information.”

In her role

Garlick explained that a senator picks his or her own legislative assistant.

In the case of the president pro tem, there's additional staff, she said. And while serving in the president pro tem's office, Garlick was responsible in part for providing information to the other executive assistants and keeping the senator informed of his schedule.

The president pro tem is a senator chosen by his or her fellow members to be the chief executive officer of the Senate and to preside in the absence of the lieutenant governor, who is the president of the Senate. The president pro tem's powers and duties are prescribed by Senate rules. The president pro tem is an ex officio and voting member of all Senate committees.

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by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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