Mark McBride dedicated most of his life to working for and getting to know his community in Moore, Oklahoma, even before he became the Oklahoma House Representative for District 53.
“For years, at 6 o’clock, I was at the local diner, Sunny Side Up, having breakfast with some of the old-timers that my parents went to school with. Just things like that. (I was) a member of the Moore Chamber of Commerce. My father was a member of the chamber. Moore’s home to us,” he said.
He and his father worked in construction, owning residential building companies. McBride also worked in oil and natural gas. He went back and forth with the idea of running for a legislative office and finally decided to try at 50 years old. McBride liked the thought of representing the same people with whom he began many of his days.
“I just had this urge to do it. It was kind of a weird thing. I had thought about it in my younger years, but I never saw a path. And I decided to run. Maybe it was a God thing. I don’t know. I decided to run and went and talked to 50 people that I knew and that I respected in the Moore area, and they all said, ‘Go for it,’” he said.
McBride was elected in 2012, celebrating a decade in the state legislature this year. He has served as Vice-Chair of the House Utility and Environmental Rights Committee, on the House Judiciary Committee, on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and as Chair of the Appropriations and Budget on Education Committee.
As a fifth-generation Oklahoman, McBride and his family have strong ties to Moore and the district he now represents. He and his father participated in the Chamber of Commerce as business owners and knew other community leaders.
“My family came to Moore probably somewhere in the 1930s, both sides of my family. … My grandmother and grandfather on one side, they met in Oklahoma City. He was a taxi driver, and she worked at a little restaurant downtown, and they met there and married. People knew who I was — not that I was anything special,” he said.
McBride is a descendant of the Bourassa family, many of whom served in leadership roles throughout the Tribe’s history. His exposure to his Potawatomi heritage as a child was limited, but he began learning more about CPN and other tribes after he took office.
“When I first came in, I was a proud Tribal member but didn’t really get involved in anything. I read the paper and glanced through it and stuff. But as I got up here, I saw how much Indian Country plays into the affairs of Oklahoma,” he said, pointing out the tribes’ influence on health care, infrastructure and overall economic impact in rural Oklahoma.
McBride’s daughter Jimmie and her husband Greg expanded their family by becoming foster parents through CPN’s FireLodge Children and Family Services. They welcome Native babies and kids into their homes and keep them connected to their culture. McBride said the process changed his thoughts on foster care and adoption, and he felt proud of his daughter for reaching out to FireLodge.
“I was really impressed that they did that, that they took that route to keep some of our heritage within Tribal families,” he said. “I think that’s really important. … Our whole family, we like to talk about our heritage and things and read books on it,” and they continue that with the children placed with them.
After establishing himself, McBride looked toward larger aspirations for his time in office. That included his appointment as chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He became vice-chairman and helped negotiate key pieces of legislation. However, McBride’s local connections made him an ideal candidate to lead the Appropriations and Budget on Education Committee. He became chair in 2018 and still holds the position today.
“It’s been a really good fit. I’ve been able to negotiate some decent education budgets. We put more money into education in the last few years than (at any other time) in the state’s history,” McBride said.
“I want to leave education better than when I came in in 2012.”
The Oklahoma Education Association honored him with the Outstanding Legislator Award in 2020. He is currently working on legislation to attract teachers to the state and students to education as a profession and rethinking Oklahoma’s educational system. He wants to make improvements by creating a model that reflects and caters to the state’s diverse population.
“I want this to be an Oklahoma model. … We’ve got 39 tribes. We’ve got German immigrants. We’ve got Russians. We’ve got Irish. This is a melting pot of people and different ideas and everything. Let’s find a model that fits (our population),” McBride said.
Besides education, he set his sights on establishing and renovating sites of cultural and architectural value, some with Native American ties. He watched the First Americans Museum flourish proudly with its grand opening in September 2021. Using a portion of state funds, the cultural center welcomed visitors after decades of anticipation and irregular support from the state government. McBride looked forward to its completion during his time in office.
He also hopes the state will renovate the Jim Thorpe Building near the Oklahoma Capitol. Citizen Potawatomi descendant and Sac and Fox Nation tribal member Jim Thorpe competed at the 1912 Olympic games in Stockholm, Sweden, and became the first Native American to win a gold medal. He still holds a reputation as one of the greatest athletes in history.
“(The building) carries a Native American’s name, but other than that, it’s a wonderful piece of architecture. There’s a lot of really interesting art deco inside the building. Some of it has been covered up by drop ceilings and just different things that should have never been done,” McBride said.
As he contemplates his goals and achievements for the rest of his time in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, he hopes his constituents reach out with their concerns. McBride is term-limited, and his final legislative session ends in May 2024.
Find out more about Oklahoma Representative Mark McBride at cpn.news/mcbride.