Chelsey Branham is a proud Chickasaw citizen, community leader, nonprofit professional, and lifelong Oklahoman. Chelsey worked her way through college at the University of Oklahoma. She graduated with a Bachelor’s in Religious Studies and Psychology. She went on to earn her Master’s in International Economics and Development. Her area focus was Sub-Saharan Africa and she conducted primary research in Zambia, and was a two-time Boren Travel Fellow.
Throughout her college career, Chelsey worked in social service focused fields. She spent several years working with children from vulnerable families to increase their behavioral and mental health skills. She worked in Zambia to help improve outcomes for orphaned children and overall community health. After returning to Oklahoma, Chelsey spent four years as Director of the Social and Economic Justice Department at the YWCA of Oklahoma City, working closely with employers and community groups to create opportunities for sexual assault and domestic violence survivors. She also delivered training related to job readiness and financial literacy, and led additional trainings for groups and organizations focused on ending racism and empowering women.
Current Policy Work
Chelsey was elected into public office on November 6th, 2018, after winning over 52% of the vote in Oklahoma House District 83. She is the first Democrat, woman, and person of color to hold a seat in the district. She was officially sworn into office on November 15th, 2018 with the proud support of her parents, sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew, and a tribal delegation of Chickasaw matriarchs.
Since being in office, Chelsey has made continuous strides in improving the life of Oklahomans. Her first bill, HB 1885, created more job opportunities for Oklahomans and more contracts for local businesses. She continues to work on legislation that will improve the lives of foster children in the state, modernize funding for public services, support mental health access, improve education funding, and expand access to healthcare.
Chelsey led the OK House of Representatives in declaring April 24th as Denim Day and the month of April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month for the state of Oklahoma with Resolution HR 1021. She is a founding member and a co-chair of the bi-partisan and bi-cameral OK Women’s Caucus, and an active member of the Native American Caucus.
A committed leader, Chelsey works to promote inclusion, diversity, and economic development. Chelsey is an Executive Stakeholder in the Police and Community Trust, a group that works to improve relations between law enforcement and minority communities, and participates in the local Diversity and Inclusion Consortium alongside other business and community leaders. She is a NextGen 30 Under 30 honoree, a founder of the Suited For Success young professionals board, VP of CommUNITY Alliance, the CEO of One Whole Village Consulting, and is actively involved with small chambers of commerce. She enjoys being an active part of her community and shining light on the amazing work being done in OKC.
Chelsey is a Native Chickasaw who grew up in a close-knit family of four on a farm in Wellston, OK. As a product of rural Oklahoma, she participated in 4H initiatives and showed livestock while in elementary school. Her parents and grandparents taught her the value of hard-work and service with their regular volunteerism at homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and on mission trips. She lost her mother to leukemia just before she turned twelve, which sparked her passion for healthcare access and affordability. Traditional and non-traditional education has always been very important to her, and she has contributed to providing community education since she was in high school.
Chelsey has lived around the world, but Oklahoma has always been home. Her experiences have given her a great deal of insight into global perspectives and the need for inclusion, diversity, and collaboration. She continues to serve her community, while living in Oklahoma City. and enjoys spending time with her niece and nephew, Symphony and Rhys, and playing with her boxers Ginsburg, Rylee, and Jaxyn.
What do you want your Muslim constituents to know about you?
My office is your office and you can always find a friendly face and welcoming place when you’re at the state Capitol.
Chelsey knows that Oklahoma leaves too many students behind. Every day, Chelsey works with clients who dropped out of school or graduated without basic life skills like financial literacy. In recent years, Oklahoma has cut public school funding more than any other state. School districts across Oklahoma struggle to attract and retain good educators, because teachers can make higher salaries in any neighboring state. If we continue down this path, we risk an entire generation growing up without the skills to enter college or the modern economy. As State Representative, Chelsey will work to restore funding to schools and retain good educators. She also knows that our skills gap does not end with high school - we must invest in higher education as well. Chelsey will make it a priority to keep college and technical training affordable, and to preserve funding for adult literacy and job readiness trainings."
Criminal Justice Reform
Working with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, Chelsey has seen how our criminal justice system fails many of Oklahoma’s most vulnerable citizens. Oklahoma incarcerates more women than any other state, and mostly for nonviolent crimes. Skyrocketing prison costs make it harder and harder for our state to fund core services like education. Racial disparities in arrest and use of force have eroded trust between law enforcement and minority communities. Chelsey believes that responsible criminal justice reforms can strengthen the entire community, protect police officers, and save taxpayer dollars. That is why she works with the Police and Community Trust (PACT) to improve relations between law enforcement and the Oklahoma City community. Chelsey has successfully ushered in important policy changes in the public and private sectors. As State Representative, she will work to implement effective reforms at the statewide level."
Working in the nonprofit sector, Chelsey has seen first hand how our economy fails Oklahomans. Oklahoma relies on just a few major industries, and that makes it difficult to balance our state budget, attract jobs, or grow Oklahoma’s economy. All our eggs are precariously perched in just a couple of baskets. Because our state lacks diverse sources of revenue, our core services are vulnerable to economic downturns. Public schools, hospitals and clinics, mental health programs, state parks, infrastructure repairs, and child welfare and most other sectors of the Oklahoma budget have all endured deep cuts. It seems like the only exception is our corrections budget. As State Representative, Chelsey will work hard on behalf of all Oklahomans to diversify our economy by investing in our workforce. Strong public schools, affordable higher education or technical training, and accessible workforce readiness programs geared to grow sectors of the world economy will attract new employers to our state. These businesses will bring high-paying jobs to our communities and increase the tax base that our core services depend on."
Early in her career, Chelsey worked for the Department of Human Services. She is currently a member of the Infant Mortality Alliance. Through these experiences, Chelsey has seen first-hand how many people slip through the cracks of Oklahoma’s public health system. Oklahoma is routinely identified as one of the least healthy states in the nation. Our state has high rates of drug addiction, infant mortality, obesity, diabetes, occupational fatalities, and untreated mental illness. We have low rates of exercise, insurance enrollment, and access to women's health services. Each of these shortcomings create barriers to a vibrant growing economy and contribute to our unmanageable incarceration rate. As State Representative, Chelsey will work to reverse these trends and make public health a priority to ensure the Oklahoma economy and Oklahoma businesses can rely on having a healthy workforce, without which they cannot thrive, let alone expand."