Governor-Elect Kevin Stitt will be sworn in January 14, ending Governor Mary Fallin's eight years in office. News 9 sat down for a one-on-one with Governor Fallin to talk about her eight years as governor. And nothing was off the table.
"My husband has questioned me many times, you know, ‘How are you going to handle this? You've been doing this job for a long period of time, but it's going to be different for you,’" said Governor Fallin.
And it is going to be different.
Governor Fallin has served in public office for 28 years, since she was just 35 years old. The eight years she spent as governor was filled with ups and downs.
"Oklahoma had a 6.2 percent unemployment rate. And the day I took office, we literally had two dollars and three-cents in our Rainy Day savings account. We lost a lot of jobs in our state, the whole nation had. It was a tough time. We grew it out. On the third year, by 2013-2014 we had $530 million in savings. We had a 3.9 percent unemployment rate. Things were going so good. Then, all the sudden the price of oil went from 107 to $26 a barrel. The energy sector basically shut down across the nation,” said Governor Fallin.
That’s two economic downturns during her time as governor.
"When you're the governor and everything falls on your shoulders, and when you feel the weight of that, it is pretty weighty at times. And of course, there are times that you have your highs, you have your lows,” she said.
The highpoint of her administration was getting teachers a raise this year after three years of trying. But the headlines never read “Fallin Victory”. The teachers still walked out, despite the raise, and the governor shouldered much of the blame.
"My mother used to tell me when I'd complain about something that was going on when she was alive, she says, ‘You know Mary, you volunteered for this job. So, don't complain.’”
Governor Fallin continued, “You do the best you can, you keep powering through it. Keep working to solve things. You know in your heart what you're trying to get accomplished."
And the governor did accomplish a lot. She hopes that’s how history remembers her.
"We're going to be able to leave our state for the next governor in a great position. We solved the budget crisis. We now have, I think, by December a half-a-billion in savings and one of the lowest unemployment rates in the whole country at 3.4 percent. And the largest teacher pay raise ever in the state's history,” said Governor Fallin.
Fallin thinks Governor-Elect Kevin Stitt will be successful. Her advice to Stitt, expect the unexpected. Expect there will be a learning curve. And don’t take criticism personally.
"One of the things I told the new governor is don't read your Facebook,” said Governor Fallin.
“Don't read it and be careful about what you post. Be thoughtful. Listen to the people,” she added.
Governor Fallin says she’s done with politics, although she may serve as a consultant or on different boards. She wants to help move criminal justice reform forward and draw more business to the state. But she also wants to spend more time with her husband and family.
"We have a new motorcycle,” she said with a smile. “We like to ride motorcycles. Hadn't had a lot of time. So, hopefully we can take a couple trips as a couple, go different places and see the country and see Oklahoma more. Having a grandson. My husband has a grandson. So, spend more time with our family and children, and just see friends. Just enjoy, enjoy the regular life."