Oklahoma's bridges, roads drive lobbyist's passion

Bobby Stem has served the Association of Oklahoma General Contractors for seven years; the past five as its executive director.
BY PAULA BURKES pburkes@opubco.com Published: November 25, 2012
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Q: Neat. Are you fluent in Spanish?

A: When I started talking, I was fluent in Spanish and struggled with English. Now, I can fully comprehend Spanish, but my speech is broken. When we vacationed in Cozumel a few years ago, I used a combination of words and pantomime to tell the taxi driver I wanted to go to a discotheque where we could dance (“bailar”) and drink (“bebida”).

Q: What piqued your interest in a political career?

A: A 26-year-old state representative addressed my high school when I was a sophomore. He talked about a state law mandating seat belts that he'd helped pass, and I was hooked. A month later, I served as a page at the state capitol, and then went on to be elected vice president and president of my study body at East Central High School. I chose to attend UCO, largely because a statesman, Gov. George Nigh, worked there. That was before he was UCO president. I gave Gov. Nigh my dorm room number and asked him to give a young man a chance; that I'd take his car for an oil change, drive Mrs. Nigh to her hair appointment or do whatever. He called me soon afterward to drive him to a speech in Altus. I would have done it for free, but he paid me $3.50 an hour to chauffeur and run various errands for him. A year later, he introduced me to Gov. Walters, with whom I traveled and worked as an advance man.

Q: Did you ever aspire to run for office yourself?

A: I did. At age 20, I ran for House representative in District 75 and got my clock cleaned in the Democratic primary. I got 1,000 votes and my opponent got 2,000.

Q: You say you're a registered Republican today. What prompted your party switch?

A: I wanted to vote for my friend, state Rep. Mike Thompson, who represents parts of Northwest Oklahoma City, Bethany and Warr Acres. Plus, I have conservative beliefs.

Q: How did you get interested in lobbying?

A: Starting when I was a junior in college, I worked a few years as a field representative for the Oklahoma Credit Union League and, after working for Glen Johnson's campaign for the state House and a stint on the staff of former state Sen. Stratton Taylor, D-Claremore, came back to work for the league as a lobbyist. It was shortly afterward, some 15 years ago, that I formed my own government relations company (Capitol Gains LLC), lobbying not only for credit unions, but also now for some 24 other organizations. I enjoy working for diverse personalities and with a range of topics. The fun thing is when my work for Capitol Gains and the AOGC mesh, like when I can introduce the Creek Nation, who we represent and is building roads, to AOGC contractors.


PERSONALLY SPEAKING

Position: Executive director, Association of Oklahoma General Contractors.

Birth date: July 18, 1971.

Family: Kim (married 10 years; they met at Life Church); daughters Rayna, 19, and Annebella,6.

Education: Oklahoma City University School of Law, juris doctor, 2002; University of Central Oklahoma, bachelor's in political science, 1994.

Civic contributions: Chairman of the board of Epic 101 Charter Schools and funds a UCO scholarship honoring his late teacher Leroy Crozier by donating his salary as an adjunct government professor there.

Favorite pastime: Time spent on the water at Grand Lake; He and Kim have a place on Monkey Island.

On the nightstand: “Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit” by Daniel Quinn.

On the iPod: The Beatles, Citizen Cope and Fun.

Dream dinner party guest list: John F. Kennedy, U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, and Frank Sinatra. He'd serve his favorite food: stone crab flown in from Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab Restaurant in Las Vegas.

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