Award Winners » Outstanding Legislator


photo of Terry O’Donnell

Terry O’Donnell

2017

During okPORK’s work on SQ777, it became clear that we needed assure Oklahoma citizens that agriculture is dependent on clean water and that farmers had every intention to regulate water quality. Rep. O’Donnell introduced and carried a bill and carried a bill including that clarification. The legislation carried by Rep. O’Donnell sought to provide reassurances to Oklahoman’s regardless of the outcome of SQ777.

okPORK worked with the others in the agricultural community to support Rep. O’Donnell’s bill and ultimately the bill was passed. By the legislator and signed by Governor Mary Fallin. Without Rep. O’Donnell constant report and hard work, this legislation would have not moved through the process and certainly would have not become a law.

“Rep. Terry O’Donnell is the embodiment of a public servant. There aren’t very many legislators who truly put doing right by their constituents over politics, but Rep. Terry O’Donnell is one of them,” James McSpadden, of McSpadden Associates said. “While he hasn’t been an overly outspoken supporter of the pork industry, he has always been there for us. The industry would be better served if we had more members like him.”

photo of Ben Sherrer

Ben Sherrer

2016

The 2016 honoree is Rep. Ben Sherrer, R-Pryor. Since joining the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 2005, he has continually stood behind the pork industry in support of farmers.

“Ben Sherrer has been a good friend to the Oklahoma Pork Council and to rural Oklahoma.” okPORK Executive Director Roy Lee Lindsey said. “He recognized the positive impact Oklahoma’s pork industry had in our rural communities and helped us protect our freedom to operate. While there aren’t many hogs in Rep. Sherrer’s district, he wanted to know what he could do to help us and he stood with us on our most important issues.”

Sherrer is a person people listen to and trust. His support and understanding of issues important to okPORK members helped others around the Capitol learn about and support those issues. There is no doubt sharing the message important to farmers in Oklahoma would be more difficult without Sherrer in the House.

Sherrer began his service in the State House of Representatives in 2005. He is just beginning his final year in the House.

photo of Lee Denney

Lee Denney

2015

In 2010, the Oklahoma Pork Council established the Outstanding Legislator Award to honor members of the Oklahoma legislature for supporting Oklahoma’s pork industry. The 2015 honoree is Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing. She was instrumental in helping okPORK remove restrictions on water permits for swine farms.

On several previous occasions, okPORK had introduced legislation to remove restrictions on water permits and had always run into opposition from the Methodist Church due to an old swine farm license application near a Methodist church camp.

“Her leadership brought representatives of the Methodist Church and the pork industry together and she helped broker an agreement that ultimately the church could live with and removed restrictions on water permits,” said okPORK Executive Director Roy Lee Lindsey, Jr. “We had worked on this issue for many years before we asked her for help and she provided just the leadership we needed to get a deal done. Most likely, we would not have been able to remove the water permit setbacks without her help.”

In addition to helping with the water permit legislation, her experience as a veterinarian has uniquely qualified Denney to speak out about animal rights legislation among her peers.

Denney began her service in the State House of Representatives in 2005. She is just beginning her final two-year term in the House and will serve as Speaker Pro Tempore of the Oklahoma House of Representatives this session.

photo of Roger Ballenger

Roger Ballenger

2014

Sen. Ballenger grew up in Okmulgee and made his living as an electrical contractor in the Tulsa area while owning and operating a small Beefmaster cattle operation west of Okmulgee. He was the Okmulgee County Commissioner for 16 years and served on the Okmulgee City Council for eight years.

“Being a Democrat in Oklahoma isn’t an easy task given the current political climate, but I don’t know of any member with a more positive attitude than Roger Ballenger,” James McSpadden of McSpadden & Associates said. “If you go by to see Sen. Ballenger, odds are that you will have a 10 minute conversation before ever talking business. When he does get down to business his questions and debates always center on people, not politics. He’s there for the right reasons.”

Sen. Ballenger recognized the damage caused by feral hogs and the risk they posed to Oklahoma’s domestic hog herd. In his first session at the Capitol he introduced legislation that limited transportation of the feral hogs, required registration of trapping and hunting facilities and eliminated restrictions on shooting of feral hogs.

“Senator Ballenger is a man of principle who stands behind what he believes is right, regardless of the resistance. There’s no better example of this than endurance to the resistance and criticism that followed the legislation on feral hogs,” Roy Lee Lindsey, okPORK executive director, said. “We had never imagined that anyone would object to this legislation but after its passage, he received countless calls critical of the effort. To his credit, he recognized the need for the legislation and stood firm on the issue.”

photo of Jeff Hickman

Jeff Hickman

2014

Speaker of the House Jeff Hickman is a fifth generation owner of farmland in Alfalfa and Woods counties. Speaker Hickman was raised in the Cherokee and Dacoma areas and represents District 58 which includes the counties of Alfalfa, Major, Woods and Woodward.

“You’ll find Speaker Hickman’s name as an author on some of the most important bills okPORK has ever requested,” Lindsey said. “Exempting testing of dry monitoring wells, eliminating liability for third party use of effluent and setting a minimum amount of effluent spills that require a reporting to ODAFF were among them. Without the support of a legislator from northwestern Oklahoma, these initiatives would have faced uphill battles.”

Hickman was the chair of the A&B Public Safety committee and a member of the Agriculture and Wildlife, Appropriations and Budget, and Energy and Aerospace committees, before being elected by the House to serve as Speaker of the House in February 2014.

“The Oklahoma House would be in a great place if we could somehow find 101 Jeff Hickmans,” McSpadden said. “His grasp of the issues and the calm demeanor make him one of the strongest House members we’ve seen in a long time. He is well-prepared to lead the House and we look forward to working with him in the coming months.”

photo of Ron Justice

Ron Justice

2013

In 2010, the Oklahoma Pork Council established the Outstanding Legislator Award to honor members of the Oklahoma legislature for supporting Oklahoma’s pork industry. This year’s honoree is Senator Ron Justice from Chickasha.

Senator Justice has spent his life working in agriculture. He retired in 2004 as the County Extension Agriculture Agent in Grady County. During his time in Grady County, Ron helped host numerous okPORK educational programs and informational meetings in Chickasha.

Since being elected to the Senate Justice has worked tirelessly to represent the interests of his district and agriculture in general. With his background in Extension, he understands the importance of agriculture to our state and he shares that knowledge with his colleagues in the Senate. He has been the primary Senate author on several bills for okPORK since 2004.

“There is little doubt that we would not have had the success we have had at the legislature recently without the support and assistance of Sen. Justice,” said Roy Lee Lindsey, okPORK executive director. “Because of his personal integrity and knowledge of agriculture, Senator Justice has proven to be a tremendous resource for all legislators on issues important to the pork industry specifically, and agriculture in general.”

Justice was elected to the Oklahoma Senate in 2004 and was just re-elected to his third and final term. He represents District 23 which includes Blaine, Caddo, Canadian, and Grady Counties.

photo of Skye McNiel

Skye McNiel

2012

In 2010, the Oklahoma Pork Council established the Outstanding Legislator Award to honor members of the Oklahoma legislature for supporting Oklahoma’s pork industry.

This year’s honoree is from Bristow, where she and her family own and operate the stockyards, an order buying business, and has a small show pig operation.

Representative Skye McNiel has been a friend to the pork industry and Oklahoma agriculture throughout her tenure in the legislature. During the 2011 legislative session, McNiel shepherded the most significant piece of legislation ever requested by the Oklahoma Pork Council.

“We had tried several times over the past five years to change the regulations and setbacks regarding water permits for swine producers,” Roy Lee Lindsey, okPORK’s executive director, said. “Each time we could get the bill about halfway through the process then it ran into a snag. Rep. McNiel kept us on task and helped us pass this very important bill for the future of the industry.”

McNiel grew up in Bristow and was active in FFA where she was awarded the state Star in Agribusiness in 1996. She graduated from Oklahoma State University with a bachelor’s degree in both agricultural communications and animal science. After college, she began working for her family’s livestock auction business and she still works there. She also ran her own floral business.

McNiel was elected to the legislature in 2006 and currently serves as majority whip in the House of Representatives. She serves on the Natural Resources and Regulatory Services subcommittee of the Appropriations and Budget Committee; Economic Development, Tourism and Financial Services Committee; Energy and Utility Regulation Committee, and the Human Services Committee.

McNiel and her husband, Pecos, have three children.

photo of Don Armes

Don Armes

2011

Rep. Don Armes has been a friend to the pork industry and Oklahoma agriculture for his entire tenure in the Oklahoma House of Representatives

Armes’ professional background with the agricultural industry began when he served as an agriculture education instructor and FFA advisor for 13 years. His passion for the youth of Oklahoma has always been clear.

“I met Rep. Armes through the Oklahoma Ag Leadership Encounter,” said Brooke Clay, OPC’s coordinator of promotional programs and OALE Class V alum. “His ability to communicate effectively while doing what’s right is an asset to the agricultural industry.”

Armes currently serves as the Chairman of the Natural Resources and Regulatory Services Committee and is a member on the Energy Committee and the Rules Committee. He is also the Director of the House Page Program and a Presiding Officer for the House of Representatives.

He has supported the pork industry and Oklahoma agriculture 100 percent of the time.

“Don is a champion for the Oklahoma pork industry,” said Roy Lee Lindsey, OPC Executive Director. “The divide between rural and urban legislators can be significant; however, he has always stood up for the industry even if it wasn’t the popular thing to do.”

In 1985, he went to auctioneer school in Bryan, Texas, instructed by legendary auctioneer Walter Britton. He has been involved in the auction business for over twenty years and, as Armes Auction Services, conducts real estate, farm equipment, antique and business liquidation auctions. He services numerous benefit auctions for various groups like American Heart Association, Diamond Hats, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and many others.

Don is a member of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association and is an Advisory Director for the organization. In July of 2001, he received the Media Appreciation Award from the OCA for his handling of the issues regarding B.S.E. and the Foot in Mouth crisis. In the year 2006 Armes received the Legislative Appreciation Award from OCA as well as the Meritorious Service Award from the Oklahoma Farm Bureau. In 2007 he received the Honorary American Degree from the National FFA Association.

“It is important to have friends in the legislature who understand what we in agriculture do, but it is even more important to have friends who can educate and communicate with urban legislators who do not understand agriculture,” Lindsey said. “Representative Armes’ background in agriculture has made him a true ag-vocate on issues impacting Oklahoma’s 77 counties and we are grateful to him for his support.” 

photo of Dale DeWitt

Dale DeWitt

2010

Representative Dale DeWitt has been a friend to the pork industry and Oklahoma agriculture for his entire tenure in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. A retired teacher and farmer/rancher Dale represents the 38th District in north-central Oklahoma.

Dale’s background with the hog industry began early as a hog buyer for John Morell. He then moved into teaching agriculture at Brahman and Helena-Goltry public schools where he was instrumental in shaping the agriculture background of the youth in those areas. Dale is actively engaged in his farming operation near Brahman.

Dale helped carry pork industry legislation his first term and has been the architect of the industry’s efforts to revise some of the environmental regulations and has had a hand in every piece of OPC legislation since he was elected.

Dale currently serves on the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee and chairs the Natural Resources and Regulatory Services section of the House Appropriations Committee. He has supported the pork industry and Oklahoma agriculture one-hundred percent of the time.

“In Oklahoma politics, the divide between Democrats and Republicans pales in comparison to the divide between rural and urban legislators,” said James McSpadden of McSpadden and Associates. “Representative DeWitt has always stood up for rural Oklahoma and it is crucial we continue to elect leaders like him that will represent us well.”

This is the first year OPC has presented the Outstanding Legislator Award. The award was established to honor members of the Oklahoma legislature for supporting Oklahoma’s pork industry.

“It is fitting that Representative DeWitt be the first person to receive this award because OPC’s legislative success over the past few years is due to Dale and the leadership he’s shown at the Capitol,” said Roy Lee Lindsey, Jr., Oklahoma Pork Council executive director.

“Representative DeWitt makes such a great legislator, because he’s such a great man,” said McSpadden. “Rural, urban, democrats and republicans all trust Representative DeWitt. They trust him, because he works hard, knows his facts and treats people fairly.”


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