Ellyn Novak Hefner is a single-working mother with three children Evelyn, Harry, and William. Life changed and so did her career path when her youngest son was born with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Learning to navigate the developmental disability service system and advocate for her son is what inspired Ellyn to become a champion for disability rights in Oklahoma. She has spent the last 18 years as a caregiver and professional dedicated to helping Oklahoma parents find hope and resources for their children with IDD.
Originally a small business owner with her late husband in Oklahoma City, Ellyn shifted careers to become a health coordinator for the Oklahoma Family Network, a nonprofit serving families with disabilities and special health care needs. She became more involved at the policy level after graduating from Partners in Policymaking, a leadership training program designed to teach people with disabilities and family members the power of advocacy to positively change the way people with disabilities are supported, viewed, taught, live and work. Ellyn is currently a financial advisor at Mass Mutual Oklahoma and serves as the Chartered Special Needs Consultant (ChSNC) with Arogos Financial. She helps families access information, specialists, financial products and services that improve the quality of life for Oklahomans with disabilities and special needs.
She is also an ambassador for OKSTABLE accounts, which allows individuals with disabilities to save and invest money without losing eligibility for certain public benefits programs. She recently worked alongside State Treasurer Randy McDaniel and Rep. Kyle Hilbert on an Income-tax deduction for Oklahomans who contribute to STABLE accounts. As a mother of a child with disabilities, Ellyn has first-hand experience dealing with the deficiencies in our state, including Oklahoma’s unacceptable 13-year waiting list for developmental disability services. She has worked directly with the thousands of Oklahomans and their families who get left behind every day. In the state legislature, Ellyn will support practical, common-sense solutions that are family friendly and benefit all Oklahomans, not just a few. Ellyn is ready to build on her leadership experience as your State Representative. She already has a reputation as a servant leader on multiple boards. She is the immediate past board chair for Daily Living Centers in Oklahoma City and served a term as president for the national Sotos Syndrome Support Association.
In her spare time, Ellyn sweep rows with The River Sirens on The RIVERSPORT Corporate Rowing League. She enjoys great coffee shops and new restaurants with her family and friends. Ellyn is a member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Oklahoma City. Ellyn knows that our state is only as strong as our public schools. That’s why she supports increasing education funding, raising teacher pay and benefits, and empowering local school boards and administrators to make the best decisions for their students. As the mother of students who attended public and private schools, she knows that parents deserve to have choices when it comes to their children’s education. Open and Honest Government Government.png Ellyn believes that Oklahoma’s government should work for everyone, not just a select few. She wants to make the State Legislature operate under the Open Meetings and Open Records Acts, ensure that the budget process is fair and open, and enact stronger anti-corruption measures. Ellyn will always do what is right for her constituents. Access to Quality Mental Health Services Mental Health.png Ellyn understands how access to QUALITY mental Health Care is important to families. Caregivers need to have support in caring for their family, co-workers and friends when they are in crisis. Ellyn will work with legislators to support Oklahomans and find solutions to the state’s growing mental health crisis.
What is the role of government in protecting public health and welfare?
I believe government should protect public health and welfare…I have a child with an Intellectual disability and I know that he needs help with support and protection because of his disability.
What are your views on individuals being able to safely and securely access sensitive medical procedures in privacy and without interference from the state?
Yes. Medical health should be private. Safety has to be in the same sentence as my health and the health of all.
What measures will you take to ensure that every Oklahoman has the chance to participate meaningfully in the democratic process?
Encourage an understanding of voting and help those understand the process to be able to vote and not take undue steps to take away someone’s vote as in full guardianship. It takes a conversation after or before to help encourage the democratic process.
How can we make voting more accessible to Oklahomans?
Let’s start at step one, encourage voting. Teach voting. Accessible to all adults are following the voter, where do they live, is it accessible with transportation, is there a person who cannot safely participate, and how do we help them vote with a notary?
Many Oklahomans experience discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, and other factors; how would you address these problems as an elected leader?
Let’s dialogue on this and find out what is happening and how we can get to the ballot box for all, including disabilities.
What measures will you take to ensure that First Amendment rights to freedom of religion, speech, protest, and press are protected from infringement?
I first want to see what is happening and what is needed. I cannot speak about a measure of what I am going to do until I have a dialogue to see what is available, and what is not available, and if there are conversations that can help me create any measures.
How can our current criminal legal system be reformed to better protect the rights of all persons involved?
There is so much here….I do not have an answer. I have an understanding of what our jail system is causing to moms and dads who have a loved one in jail, especially if there is a child with a disability. We need to elect a DA that can understand and have experience. I see us voting in an experienced leader as step one.
What steps would you take to adjust or reform our criminal legal system?
This is huge, I like Kris Steele and I think the work he does is great. I hear at the doors that when released from jail, mental hospital, or addiction treatment center that they are not ready to be back in the world, fully. A step-down program is an idea that has worked. I know that I needed that and did not get it when my husband was released from a mental hospital. I do not have a “plan”. I know there needs to be conversations and dialogue with all people at the table to find a way that will help our Oklahomans.