By Todd Hiett
Bill Bartlett: Todd Hiett is my friend. He is also a consultant to our company, so I know him pretty well. Todd is married to Bridget Hiett and has three children, Jimmy, John, and Hillary. The Hiett family lives on a ranch two miles south of Kellyville. Faith has been at the center of the Hiett’s lives for many years, and they count all their accomplishments, including their three children, as God’s blessing. Senator Hiett was elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 1994 at the age of 27. He quickly ascended into leadership and was selected by his colleagues to be the House Minority Leader in November 2002. Two years later he led the State House of Republican’s to their first majority win in eight decades, and their largest victory in nearly half a century. Marking a historic shift in power at the capital, Todd was chosen the first Republican Speaker in more than eight decades. During his first year as speaker, Todd pushed through the largest tax cut in state history, the most significant Right to Life legislation in thirty years, an innovative highway funding bill, and also his top priority- significant worker’s comp reform. After a successful twelve years in Oklahoma legislature, speaker Hiett continues a fast paced schedule working to include Oklahoma. In addition to spending more time with his family, ranching, and serving on the Board of Directors for Spirit Bank, he has started his own business continuing his passion for economic development in Oklahoma. Todd is an honorable man, and I can tell you he has great integrity. I am excited to hear what he is going to share with us tonight.
Todd Hiett: Thank you Bill so much for a nice introduction. I appreciate so much the opportunity to visit with all of you tonight. It’s an honor to me, and it is very humbling to have the opportunity to address such a distinguished and learned group that has such a heart and strong commitment to the Lord. I don’t take this platform lightly because I know you are not here to be entertained. I know you are here to lift up the name of Jesus. I know you are here to grow in God. I know you are here to fellowship with other leaders, and I certainly do not take the platform lightly.
I thank God for men and women who understand the anointing to build companies, and they understand the purpose of building those companies is not to make people rich and powerful, but those companies are to advance the kingdom of God and lift up the name of Jesus. I appreciate so much men and women that have that understanding and are willing to put forth their efforts under the anointing of God to do that.
I’ve had a lot of opportunity in the last year and half or so to spend a lot of time with two men who have deep convictions to see their anointing and their God given business acumen advance the kingdom of God. I’ve worked very closely with Mr. Bill Bartlett, a wonderful man of God and one of the most impressive figures that I’ve ever had the opportunity to become acquainted with. I have also had opportunity to work with Jim Bennett. It’s Harel’s son; you’ve probably met him. He is just another fine man of God that runs U.S. Payment, who is a subsidiary of Spirit Bank. I’ve served on the board, and I have worked very closely with Jim. I have known him for years, but I have worked very closely with him in the last year and a half along with Mr. Bartlett at Callidus. I can tell you the power of God is very much at work in their lives and their businesses. Their commitment to God’s principles in their businesses is unlike anything I have ever seen in the business world. It is astonishing to me that I am around them to see the level of commitment to applying God’s principles to the businesses. I just have such great appreciation for that. Both Bill and Jim convict me to do better and reach higher, and they certainly provide great examples that I can look up to. But I know when I stop to think, “Who are these men? Who are these men of such character, of such tremendous success in their lives?” Really they’re just merely two pieces of clay. That’s all they are. They’re two pieces of clay. The difference though in these men and many of you in this room from others is that these men have yielded to God. They’ve yielded to the Potter as merely pieces of clay. They’ve yielded to the Potter to become vessels of God.
As I thought about tonight and what I would like to say to you, I kept coming back to the story when God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah and told Jeremiah, “Go down to the potter’s house and watch the potter work, and you will have a word from the Lord” (paraphrase). Jeremiah did something. He went to the potter’s house, he observed the potter, and he said something that I think is very fitting in this context. Jeremiah said, “And the vessel he made of clay was marred in the hands of the potter, so he made it again, another vessel as seemed good to the potter.” I am a marred piece of clay. We are all marred. We all have the nature of a marred piece of clay, but don’t leave out the other part, in the potter’s hand.
I want to share with you tonight some about this old chuck of marred clay (points to himself) and my journey to become a vessel God can use. I want to share with you some of the challenges we had along the way, but I also want to share with you some of the works of God that I’ve had the privilege to be a part of.
God called me to serve Him at a very young age; I was about eleven years old. My family was not in church at that time. We were when I was younger but the church split. My family was not in church after that, but at this time I was invited to attend a youth camp at Turner Falls. I didn’t go to the camp to seek God. I was eleven years old. I went to the camp to have a good time with my friends and to probably get into a little orneriness. But the first night of camp in an open air tabernacle, the preacher preached and during the altar service God got a hold of my heart and wouldn’t let go until I made my way to the altar. After a lengthy very emotional but wonderful experience, I met God. I met God face to face for the first time at eleven years old. After that time at the altar I got back up, walked back to where my friends were (as you would expect on the back row), and I looked at them. I could tell by the look on their faces exactly what they were thinking, “Todd Hiett is just about to ruin our time here at summer camp.”
Like I said my family was not in church, but I knew God. For the next few years I talked to God, but I didn’t know anyone else that knew God. I wasn’t around anyone, so I just never talked to anyone about it. I knew God, talked to God often, loved God, enjoyed my communication with God as a child, but I didn’t know of anyone else that knew God.
A few years later when I was around 15 years old, I met a man who was pastoring, but was also a substitute teacher at our school. That is the reason I feel pretty strongly about the limitations on teachers sharing the gospel at school because it was the substitute teacher that first talked to me. I realized in a conversation with him at that school, “He knows the God that I know, and I want to go to this church. So I did. I became very active there. That’s where I met my wife, and that’s a real blessing. As a matter of fact, Bridget and I just celebrated nineteen years of marriage just last month and have three wonderful children, and we attend June Rose Assembly of God.
For many years after meeting God there in Turner Falls, I continued to grow in God, to grow in the Potter’s hands. I had cracks along the way. I assume most of you can relate to that. I was a hard piece of clay, but the Potter was working to create the vessel He could use. He had plans for me, and I assume He has more plans for me down the road. His plans all started in the field of Politics on December 31st of 1993. Senator Young, you listen up because we’re going to talk Politics now.
December 31, 1993 some friends of mine and I were gathered at my brother’s house. A very close friend of mine, a girl I knew growing up, was there. We grew up like brother and sister; our parents were friends. We are still wonderful friends and spiritual accountability partners. She is a wonderful young lady. The only thing wrong with her is that she’s a Democrat. She and I for entertainment used to argue politics. Of course I would take the Republican side, and she would take the Democrat side. Her family had always been Democrat, and my family had always been Republican. So we were in a big argument for fun and entertainment. We were really carrying on in front of our friends, and I was getting the best of her. I was winning the debate, so she had to pull out the big guns. She happened to know that when I was eighteen years old I lived in Creek County where there weren’t very many Republicans. I had a 4H leader that was running for County Commissioner. You hardly ever had any Republican elections at that time, so I registered Democrat so that I could vote for my 4H leader in that Democratic primary. I never bothered to change. Most people are like that; you don’t really worry about it that much. Until that night when my friend challenged me because she was losing the debate. She said, “Todd Hiett, if you are such a Republican, show us your registration card.” Well, she got me. I stumbled and fumbled around, and the only thing I could think of to say was, “Jamie Long Acre, the son will not set Monday until I am a registered Republican.”
Of course I spent years getting made fun of every time I went to vote. My whole family was Republican, so every time I went to vote the ladies at the polling place would say, “Oh, you’re the Hiett in the other book.” Well, a few days after that night with my friends, I went and changed because I was not going to let that happen again. I went to the courthouse and changed my party affiliation. At the time I had no intention of ever getting into politics; it never entered my mind. Never would I have agreed that I’d ever been qualified, but not very many months after that I was approached about running for House of Representatives. I laughed at it at first. I was running the dairy farm at the time, and I asked them who was going to milk all of those cows if I had to go to Oklahoma City. They kept after me, and kept after me, and kept after me until I finally decided that maybe that would be a good idea.
I ran for the State Legislature, and I worked hard. Bridget and I did like we did everything else, we just worked day and night and got out there and campaigned. We didn’t have a clue what we were doing. We just worked and worked and worked and weren’t smart enough to know that we probably weren’t going to win. Here we were Republicans running in a district that only had one Republican elected into it in history, and we weren’t smart enough to know that was a problem, and running against an incumbent.
By the fall of that year we were in the running, and it looked like we might have a chance to win. One of the political advisors said to me one day, “I can’t believe they haven’t attacked you for being a party switcher. I can’t believe they haven’t attacked the fact that you used to be a Democrat. How long have you been a Republican?” I said, “I don’t know, right after the first of the year sometime, I changed.” He panicked. He said, “You don’t know?! You have to be registered in your respective party for which you are a candidate six months prior to filing that. Filing it ends July 11th of this year, so you’d have to be registered in your respective party by January 11th of 1994. If you’re not, even if you win the race, you will be disqualified and will not be able to be seated in the State Legislature. They’ll have to have a new race.”
So I scurried around and looked at my registration card of which I had changed because of my friend on December 31st. It was January 10th that I had changed my voter registration. So I had a good time with my Democratic friend telling her that if it wasn’t for her that a Republican would not have been elected over that Democrat.
Well, now I was elected, but I had a new challenge. Bridget told me, “We’re going to have a swearing in ceremony to be sworn into the legislature two weeks from the election, and you have to have a suit to go into the House Chamber. So you have to go to town and buy a suit.” Now you have to understand at this time I had never owned a suit in my life. Twenty-seven years old and I have never owned a suit. I didn’t need a suit. I was a dairy farmer. All I needed were some overalls and rubber boots. Well, I didn’t want to go to town because I didn’t think I could take time away from the farm, so I convinced Bridget of this great plan. I said, “We’ll stop by in Stroud (which was Tanger Mall at the time) on our way to the city and we’ll buy me a suit, I’ll put it on, and we’ll go to the Capital Building.” So that was the plan. We did that. We went to S&K Men’s Wear, found the suit, and told the clerk we’d take it. One problem–I didn’t know suits didn’t come cut to length. So I had these britches hanging way out, fringe on the end, and I said, “If you’ll just fix these legs up I’ll take this one and be on my way.” He said, “Okay, it’ll be ready next Thursday. I said, “No, you don’t understand. I have to wear it out of here today because I have to go to the State Capital Building. I’m in the House of Representatives now, and I have to go get sworn in.” He said, “No, Sir, you don’t understand. We don’t have a tailor on hand. We have to send it to Oklahoma City, and it’ll be next Thursday before it gets back here.” So the clerk and I had to get pretty creative at that time. He had some tape in his drawer, and he folded those britches legs under and taped them for me, and I went to the Capital Building and was sworn in to the House of Representatives duct tape and all.
I was quite a sight there for the legislatures because they had never seen anyone quite as country and quite like me before, especially in the Republican caucus. They’d seen some cowboy farmers in the Democratic caucus, but they didn’t have very many in the Republican caucus. So they were really looking at me.
Several years later after I was elected, God had additional plans for me. In 2002 I heard God calling me to run for minority leader, which is the Republican leader in the House (the Republicans were in the minority at that time). As you can expect after the story about the suit, my colleagues when I first entered the Legislature would absolutely have voted me least likely to ever be the leader for the Republican caucus. Well, I heard God calling me to run, and I fought God. I did not think that was right. I didn’t think I was capable, but yet I knew what I had to do. So I threw my hat out there, and I met a lot of opposition from my fellow Republicans. Some of them, fortunately it was not the majority of them. I met a lot of opposition from some of them because they said, “Todd’s a farm boy from Kellyville, wherever Kellyville is, and he is not even a political insider in the political infrastructure of the state. For heaven’s sake, he’s not even lawyer. How could he be in a high position in the legislature not being a lawyer?”
Well, again that Fall of 2002, against all odds, I won that battle and became the Republican Minority Leader in the House of Representatives. But I soon realized why God was calling me into that position. In the spring of 2003 the governor and the pro gambling forces in the United States came into Oklahoma. And of course when Governor Henry campaigned in Oklahoma that was one of his platforms was to bring gambling into the state. Governor Henry and the gambling forces launched a massive, and I mean MASSIVE effort to bring casino gambling into the state of Oklahoma. When that started, I immediately felt the emotion, or the weight of the thousands of families that I knew would be devastated over time. I carried that weight on me. I knew that by all appearances there was no way I could win, but I knew I had to fight. I had to fight for those people.
In this particular situation, rarely do minority leaders have the power to actually stop a bill, because usually the majority just runs over the minority. That’s not a Republican and Democrat thing just usually the majority runs over the minority because they have more numbers. Well, in this case it didn’t split down party lines. There were many democrats, and of course Governor Henry, who was Democrat, tried to get all of them to rally behind him, but there were many Democrats that would not support gambling in the state of Oklahoma. As hard as the governor tried, he could not get them to move over and get behind him, so he had to have some Republicans to pass the bill. So, now as Minority Leader, I’m in a position that if I can unify the Republicans and hold them together, then I could defeat casino gambling in the state of Oklahoma.
I worked for weeks unifying the Republican caucus– talking about the problems with bringing gambling in, talking about the economics of it and how it would never work to grow our economy. Governor Henry targeted six Republicans that would have been considered the most likely Republicans to jump ship and vote for gambling. We spent weeks going from one to two to three to six, then going back to one and starting all over. Governor Henry was calling them into his office just as fast as I could convince them to stay on my side. Governor Henry would call them in and convince them to vote “Yes,” and I would meet them at the governors door as they would coming out, and I would convince them to go back to “No.” That went on for weeks. I was totally exhausted after all that was over.
The gambling forces came in from all over the United Stated and had millions and millions of dollars. They hired every willing lobbyist in the State Capital Building, which is a bunch of them. Every willing lobbyist, and to their credit not all of them were willing to support the gambling effort. Some of them that didn’t want to lobby for gambling were paid $100,000 just to stand down. Not to lobby for it, just not to go lobby against it. The gambling forces spent millions of dollars. You remember all their add campaigns.
During that time I was ambushed for leading the charge against it. I had a friend call from back home and said, “Todd, I don’t understand why you’re against this. This is so great for the state, and we’re going to have all kinds of money. We don’t understand.” These were close friends of mine. He said, “Would you come by and explain it to us?” I said, “Sure. I’ll be in from the Capital Building on Friday evening, and I’ll come by the house.” I was thinking we’d just sit in the living room. There were about three or four he was talking about. I said, “We’ll sit down, and I’ll explain it to you.” I looked forward to explaining to them why this was a problem.
As I drove up to my friend’s house, the whole hillside was covered with cars. I could see Channel 8’s satellite truck, and I could see Channel 6’s satellite truck. So I thought, “What do I do?” Well, I just drove right up into the middle of them. They’re out there with the cameras filming me as I got out of the truck and walked in. They treated me like you couldn’t imagine. I mean, it was cruel they way they treated me, but I just kept trying to explain to them why it would be a bad thing for Oklahoma, and how it was going to devastate families. But one man who stands out in my mind jumped out of the crowd (this was a very rowdy, ugly crowd) and had one hundred dollar bill in his hand waving it said, “Mr. Hiett, I want you to have this hundred dollar bill. I want to come by tomorrow morning and pick you up, and I want to take you to a casino and you gamble that one hundred dollars. And I said, “No, Sir.” I’m still trying to be polite even though these people are being pretty ugly. Then he said, “No, you don’t understand. I’m going to give you this, hundred dollars, and I’m going to pick you up and drive you over there. You won’t be out any gas money; you will just be spending my hundred dollars. You might win. You might win big.” I said, “No, Sir, I’m not interested.” He said, “Why not?” I said, “Because I don’t gamble.” He turned around to the crowd, and he said, “See what we’re dealing with ladies and gentlemen? This is not a reasonable man. This is a religious nut.” So I was labeled a religious nut. I was labeled a racist against the tribes since they are part of the groups that are pushing it big. I was labeled a racist and a radical nut.
Then finally, after months of that fight, I came back home one morning for a funeral because a friend of mine had a young child tragically killed. It was the only day in twelve years I even remember, being outside the walls of the Capital while we were in session, and I was just out for half a day. I went to the funeral that morning, was heading back to the Capital Building by noon, and as I started on the turnpike my phone started ringing. Remember the six I talked about? Number One called, “Todd, I’m going to have to go with it.” Number Two, Number Three, Number Four. While I was gone they convinced four out of the six, and that was all they had to have. So that day, casino gambling passed in the state of Oklahoma, and I am sure all of you know the devastation that has already been created in a very short period of time.
I lost that battle. I thought, “Lord, I’m here. I fought. You wanted me to run and now I’ve fought and lost this battle.” But what I hadn’t realized, and it took me a while to realize it, was that we may have lost that battle, but we didn’t end up losing the war because God had positioned me in a position to do something very historic. I was able to lead the Republicans in 2004 to the first majority the Republicans had since 1922. I can tell you, being in a position where I felt over my head and incapable of being Minority Leader, I definitely felt inadequate to be leading a majority caucus. But I will also tell you, I have never in my life felt the power of God more than when I felt so inadequate. God did a mighty, mighty work in the Legislature during those years, and you didn’t read that in the newspapers. It’s still a fairly limited number of people that actually know what happened. Now everyone knows what bills passed and who got elected, but the spiritual transformation that occurred in that building during that period of time. It wasn’t just a Republican thing. We had a spiritual transformation.
God was working on three fronts. Number one — He raised up leaders that would hear His voice all across this state. I drove from corner to corner of this state as a Minority Leader recruiting candidates. I would drive in these communities, and it was just like finding a needle in a haystack trying to find someone willing to run for the House of Representatives. I would drive into these communities and districts and talk to everyone I could talk to, and God had a man every time. Then once it was all over, of course I wasn’t involved in the Democrat race, we got back and we had enough Republicans to get into the majority. The new Democrats that had been elected were also men and women of God. God raised up people that would hear His voice all over this state miraculously.
The second front that I saw God working was by removing leaders who were unwilling to hear his voice. We saw things happen that never happened in this state. A Senate Proteome, a leader of the Senate, a man who had enjoyed a 25 year successful career, a powerful, powerful man, was removed from office for alcoholism. A few months later, a guy who was a legend in the Oklahoma Legislature for fifty years, and had been corrupt for most of that, fifty years and had skirted the system, had to turn in his resignation and is still in the process of being indicted.
The third front was my favorite part to watch. It was God changing the hearts of leaders within the State Legislature. I had a Republican member of the House that had served with me from the time I was elected in 1994. When he came in he had a beautiful family, and I watched over a six to eight year period of time his family deteriorate. I watched him fall into the wrong ways, and like most people would, he got bitter and would fight against anyone that would try to direct otherwise. So he fought against me at every front. If I was running for Minority Leader, he fought against me. If I wanted to pass a bill, he wanted to kill it. This went on and on and on. It’s not all Democrat versus Republican down there. There are as many Republican versus Republican fights as there are of the others.
This guy fought me on every front until one night he hit a wall. He got a DUI, and he knew that the life he knew was over. The life of being in the State Legislature, and running up and down the road with all his good time buddies, was all over, and he knew it. He lost his wife, he lost his children, and now he was about to lose his career. He didn’t call his bar room buddies that night. He called the guy that he hated. He called the guy that he fought against for seven years. I had just left the Capital. It was a Thursday evening and I was heading home for a Thursday night church service in Kellyville, while he explained to me through tears what had happened and could hardly catch his breath. I listened to him and tried to talk to him for over an hour as I drove to Kellyville. I got in the church parking lot and sat there and talked to him a little while. Church had started. I finally said, “There’s nothing we can do right now. I’m going to go to church, and I will call you as soon as I get out of church. We’ll talk about it then and do whatever we have to do. I’m going to be your friend. I’m going to help you.”
I went into church and I stood and told the church what happened (of course I didn’t mention any names). I asked them, “Would you let me sit in for him and anoint me with oil and gather around me and pray for me to stand in for this man. That his heart would be healed and his soul would be healed?” The saints gathered around and prayed for me, and I don’t know that I’ve ever felt a more powerful move of God. I knew God was working in that situation.
I got out of church and called him back, and by that time the good time buddies had called and gotten a hold of him. They all had strings they could pull in every courthouse. They had this lawyer and that lawyer, and they were going to do this and that. He didn’t want to talk to me anymore. Well, I did talk to him several times over the next few days, and he was bitter again. He kept saying, “Todd, I know you don’t think I’m a Christian, but you’re just wrong.” I kept saying, “That’s not what I’m saying. I want to help you. I want to be your friend. I want to talk to you about Jesus. I want to talk to you about something that can heal your heart.” I thought to myself, “What WAS that powerful move of God that happened in that service that night?”
In just a few months he gave his heart to the Lord, and not too long after that he married a Godly lady, and today he is living a Godly life. As a matter of fact, he went on to serve during my administration as Speaker of the House. He became a tremendous ally to me. Where would you think he served for me when I was Speaker of the House? He was in charge of coordinating the pastors that we brought in every week to minister the Gospel to the Legislature. That’s just one story about how God changed the hearts of the Legislatures during that time, and I’m sure God still is.
Many of these challenges were difficult and stressful at that time, but I count it a blessing that I have been able to have a part in God’s mighty work in our State Capital Building in Oklahoma. There are some that are called to preach, some are called to sing, some are called to missions, and some called to politics, believe it or not, and some called to build successful companies, but we are all called to lift up the name of Jesus in everything we do that men will be drawn unto Him.
Thank you again for the example you set in your respective fields of business, and thank you for this opportunity to be able to share with you tonight.