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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

In Garlick's current role, “Constituent work is the main thing, but there is also the keeping of Burrage's schedule and answering calls.”

She asks callers to explain their problems so she can start working on the issue.

The history

Garlick was around when Charles Banks Wilson painted the murals in the 1970s, even watched his children during the summer in the president pro tem's office.

“Such a delightful man, and the children were so well-behaved,” she said.

She was around when teachers came in large numbers to the Capitol for House Bill 1017, the education reform bill which was signed into law by then- Gov. Henry Bellmon in April 1990.

“That was one of the most controversial issues, and the teachers wanted to meet with all the legislators, so you had to keep your office open,” Garlick said. “The teachers had a reason to do that, and it was important.

“I'd arrive at 8:30 a.m. and maybe stay until 8 at night.”

She was around in 2000 when then-Gov. Frank Keating announced plans to build the Capitol dome and in 2002 when it was dedicated.

She has seen so many historical days.

Recently, she got up from her desk, walked over and picked up a copy of the “Oklahoma Almanac” of 2011-12. Garlick turned to the section featuring governors. She began counting.

When she started in 1965, Bellmon was in his third year of his first term as governor. If you count his two terms separately, the other coming in 1987-91, there have been 10 elected governors in office while she has worked at the Capitol.

If she quits ...

Garlick is Burrage's only staff member. She is one person with many roles, he said.

Burrage said Garlick is the receptionist, gatekeeper and counselor for many of his constituents who call in with problems.

She takes the emails and the phone calls to the senator.

She helps when she can and forwards the others.

Burrage estimates that with her experience, Garlick can handle a majority of the concerns without his assistance.

“She is well-respected throughout state government, knows people in every agency and can pick up the phone and resolve most issues, if they are solvable issues, in a matter of a couple of phone calls,” he said. “I tell people when they ask me about what Donna means to me, ‘If Donna quits, I quit.'”

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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