State Rep. Wes Hilliard is celebrating his 37th birthday this week by continuing to work the shoe leather and the campaign trail as he seeks to earn his fourth term in the District 22 seat.

Hilliard is not only familiar with this area he’s seen his share of campaigns thanks to a family heritage of serving in an elected office.

Born in Pauls Valley, Hilliard was raised in Sulphur where he still lives with his wife Melissa Cottrell, originally from Wynnewood, and their young son Weston.

His own father, Don Hilliard, once served as Murray County’s assessor, while his uncle, Danny Hilliard, served out his full limit of terms also representing District 22 in the state House.

“I come from a family of public servants,” Hilliard said.

“With our family it’s important to give back to the community.”

Hilliard’s road to public service came after he earned his bachelor’s degree in public administration from Oklahoma State University and master’s degree in education from East Central University in Ada.

Before running for office he was an educator at the Southern Oklahoma Technology Center in Ardmore overseeing adult training classes.

Then came his decision back in 2004 to run for the District 22 House seat.

“I wanted to make sure we had someone go to the Capitol and fight for our rural way of life,” he said.

“I wanted to be an independent voice for the people of District 22. When government lets them down I wanted to be able to step in and help them get something done. When government fails my constituents my job is helping them correct that failure. I am their voice.”

Fast forward to the present and Hilliard’s priorities have expanded to his family, specifically to his 1-year-old son.

“Now it’s about my son and his future. It’s about children and the future we leave for them,” he said.

“Having a child changes everything.”

With three terms in the House under his belt Hilliard believes he’s accomplished a lot during that time.

“Since I was elected we passed the largest income tax cut the state has ever seen,” he said.

“Working with (state Senator) Susan Paddack and (state Rep.) Lisa Billy we’ve been able to keep the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center from closing. We will continue to work to keep that facility open and viable in Pauls Valley.”

Hilliard said he was also a part  of the effort to pass the Caitlyn Wooten Act - a measure that makes it more difficult for offenders of violent acts to get out of jail.

Another piece of legislation he was a part of is to notify victims of those violent crimes when offenders are released from jail.

“I passed a bill that allowed veterans to vote from their bed side. They fought for that right, and they should be able to vote.”

During Hilliard’s tenure funding was secured to build new wings at a veteran’s center in Sulphur, while his legislation ensured that teachers at the Oklahoma School for the Deaf were paid at the same level as other school teachers.

During his time in the House Hilliard says he’s cast thousands of votes for proposed legislation. He stresses there are times when opponents can misrepresent what those votes actually meant.

“There’s always more to a bill. I have examined legislation closely but there are times there’s some good in the bill and some bad. I am not going to vote for a bill if there’s something really bad in it,” Hilliard said.

“I vote based on what’s right for the people I serve and not based on winning the next election. I vote the beliefs of the people I serve,” he said.

“I believe in my voting record. Many times there’s more to a bill than the tag line you get.”

An example comes from the past when he once voted against a bill; an action that can be attacked if not looked at closely.

“In the first version of an English only bill it included a provision where we would have lost Medicare coverage for the hospitals in Sulphur, Pauls Valley and Purcell,” he said, adding those smaller hospitals depend greatly on Medicare funding.

“With that bill there was the possibility we would have lost our community hospitals, and I couldn’t support that. So I voted against the bill. Later I supported a better version of the bill.”

Hilliard stresses a lot of what he does in the world of legislation depends greatly on the people of his district.

“The best legislation I run comes from suggestions from my constituents,” he said.

As for any claim that he’s a professional politician, Hilliard said just the opposite is true.

“I am committed to the people of District 22. I have no plans to run for any other office,” he said.

“It’s hard to be a professional politician when the people of Oklahoma have voted to limit the terms of office to 12 years.”

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