ED Apple jokes that in his next life, he wants to return “as someone who's indifferent.” But in this one, Apple finds that he is “cursed with a conscience — with knowledge comes responsibility.”
To that end, Apple, who served four terms in the Oklahoma House of Representatives and then eight years as a member of the Corporation Commission, feels a need to educate everyday Oklahomans about what it takes to be a public servant.
Retired in his hometown of Duncan, Apple, 79, has conjured the idea of making available on a website the job descriptions of every elected office in Oklahoma from school board to governor. He believes compiling and posting the information — along with a history of the trouble some of our elected and appointed officials have gotten into — would be an excellent project for the political science department at one of our state's colleges or universities.
This would be a nonpartisan, nonissue undertaking. The focus, he said, would be “simply on the process and procedures about how to be an effective public servant.”
A Republican, Apple found his early days at the Legislature in the late 1980s to be quite a challenge. That's not surprising — the learning curve is steep for newcomers to the Capitol. But it can be steep, too, for new members of a city council or even a school board (“I've heard it said that half of school board members run on a platform of firing the football coach,” Apple said, joking — we think).
So the idea of offering a baseline summary of job duties and expectations is a good one. Among those duties is — or should be — to respond in some way to the concerns of those who pay public officials' salaries. Apple is convinced that too many men and women, once elected, lose sight of that.
In recent months, he has placed calls about various topics to a number of public officials — university presidents, department heads, statewide officeholders — and received one return phone call, not from any of those officials but from a staff member. “That bothers me,” he said.
Apple says that at the Corporation Commission, he reminded his staff regularly that they were there for three reasons — to enrich, enhance and ennoble the lives of Oklahomans. He made it a point as a House member to listen to his constituents. A comment by a woman who called his office to complain one day resonates still.
“She said, ‘You people are messing around with my life,'” Apple said. “That should be written in capital letters in front of every single person who serves in the state of Oklahoma.”
In the meantime, he would settle for trying to educate Oklahomans about life in public service in our state. To help fund his idea, he has reached out to friends who are associated with various foundations. He sees it as an ideal project for graduate-level college students. “This is a doable deal,” he said.
If you're interested in helping make that happen, Apple can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or call him at his home, (405) 255-6699. It'll be time well spent.