ENID, Okla. — Enid attorney Taylor Venus has announced he is seeking the Republican nomination for the state House District 40 seat, promising voters a level of transparency and partnership he said has been missing from the role.
"You're representing people, so at the end of the day you should be doing everything you can to keep them informed," Venus, an attorney at Long, Claypole & Blakley Law, said.
"We live in a world where it's so easy to interact with people anymore," Venus said, there's no excuse for a lack of two-way communication between a representative and his or her constituents.
Whether it's daily Facebook updates, or FaceTime calls with community members, he wants to eliminate the distance between the Capitol and the district, to keep conversations going wherever he's at. There's no good way to represent the district's roughly 35,000 residents unless he's hearing from them, and they're hearing from him, consistently.
At the state and federal levels, many elected officials have lost sight of this, he said.
"If you want things done right, sometimes you've got to jump in and fix it," he said. "It seems obvious that a representative should listen to their constituents."
The House seat is currently held by Republican Rep. Chad Caldwell, who Venus ran against in the 2018 Republican primary, losing 46.8% to Caldwell's 53.2%.
Caldwell has not announced if he intends to run for re-election.
In addition to practicing law, Venus serves as president of Enid Public School Foundation, is a trustee of Vance Development Authority, a member of the Board of Adjustments, and is actively involved in Rotary, AM AMBUCS and Grand National Quail Club.
He's plugged into the community and aware of the top concerns, which include education, business and quality of life.
Education has some effect on all the issues he's heard. Investing in it is key to bringing new business and encouraging economic opportunity.
"I'm tired of seeing my peers, people's children and grandchildren leave the state because we don't provide the best opportunities for them," Venus said.
It also offers a means for even an individual to better their circumstances, he said.
"Providing quality education is the best way for impoverished people to get out of poverty, the quickest way for someone to really jump up the ladder," he said.
Venus grew up in Ponca City, earned degrees in economics and finance from Oklahoma State University, and his law degree and an MBA from the University of Oklahoma.
Raised by a single mother, things turned out better for him than they perhaps should have, he said, statistically speaking. He credits his public education for this.
No doubt it's a worthwhile investment in his eyes.
Teacher pay raises enacted in recent years are a good start, but classrooms remain overcrowded and under-equipped, he said. The state still is in a teacher shortage, relying on emergency certifications to fill the gaps. Fewer and fewer young people are pursuing the profession, while many already in the field are fleeing it.
There's more work to be done in the Legislature, Venus said.
Improving education in Oklahoma won't fix all problems the state faces, but there are few institutions, if any, that have such a broad impact.
"I want Oklahoma to be a place ... where when kids get through college, they want to come back," he said. "Where they have the opportunity to come back because we've developed business that allows them to use their degrees or vocational school education to live where they want to, and they don't have to leave the state so they can have a good, high-paying job."