ANALYSIS Cathy Costello for Oklahoma Commissioner of Labor

OKLAHOMA CITY – Cathy Costello, widow of Oklahoma Commissioner of Labor Mark Costello, has formally asked Governor Mary Fallin to appoint her to fill out the remaining three years of her husband’s term of office.

Under Oklahoma law, the state’s chief executive can fill a vacancy in an elected post, with voters retaining the prerogative to decide the matter in subsequent elections.

In a letter to Fallin, delivered September 8, Mrs. Costello told the governor, “I am ready, willing, qualified and energized to continue the work that Mark started at the Department of Labor. Many of the initiatives launched by Mark to reform and improve services were discussed with me both before and during his time in office. I formally ask that you  appoint me as Labor Commissioner to continue the work Mark began that I will successfully bring to fruition.”

There is a long-standing American tradition for widows to complete their husbands’ work in political office, and in some cases go on to secure election to major offices.

The Sooner State has a legal provision, in fact, hinting a preference for such steps in appropriate circumstances. A long-state law states, “If any officer of the state, district, county, city, town or other governmental subdivision of this state shall die while in office, and shall leave a surviving spouse, the said surviving spouse shall be eligible (if otherwise qualified) to be appointed to and to hold said office during the term for which the said officer was elected. …”

Although thousands of Oklahomans have recently come to know her as the widow of the slain Commissioner, they are only slowly realizing the extent of her involvement in business and charitable activities over the past several decades.

Cathy and her husband started a firm known as American Computer and Telephone (AMCAT) in 1991. The communications company ultimately had offices in this country, Great Britain, Germany, New Zealand and South Africa. They sold the company in 2007. Cathy also worked with her husband in development of UK Digital and Monscierge, international “tech” firms working in 60 countries around the globe.

Presently, Mrs. Costello is an owner of USADigital, where she serves as executive vice president. In a resume summary provided to reporters this week, the company was described as “a voice and data provider that develops specific product suits to LECs, businesses and government to help business successfully operate.”

In all, the Costellos worked in partnership guiding eight businesses in six industries in the course of their 33 years of marriage. 

After the sale of AMCAT in 2007, Mrs. Costello devoted much of her attention to charitable causes, including the Monastery at Clear Creek near Hulbert, Oklahoma, prolife groups in Oklahoma (including BirthChoice of Oklahoma), and St. Gregory’s Academy in Pennsylvania.

Perhaps most notably, the couple led the auction committee for the Green Tie Gala, the annual event benefiting Catholic Charities of Oklahoma. Their recent efforts were focused on providing support and housing to homeless and at-risk women and children in our state.

Summarizing the decades of involvement in business and related activities, aides Mrs. Costello this week told CapitolBeatOK she and Mark “worked hand-in-hand to develop, launch, and achieve success. … From marketing to cold calls, to advertising, to crafting policies and procedures and business plans, Cathy developed a broad based understanding of policy needs and approaches to serve well the needs of their employees, their families and the lives of Oklahoma workers.”

Additionally, the couple had become increasingly active in efforts to improve provision of mental health care in Oklahoma. 

Much of their work took place quietly, as they grappled with the severe mental illness of their eldest son, Christian.

In a poignant address last spring, Commissioner Costello spoke at a gathering of mental health advocates meeting at the Oklahoma State Capitol. He said, “.I have noted late in life that there are a lot of mysteries. Some of them are beautiful; my wife is a mystery to me still after 33 years.

“But some of the mysteries that I’ve discovered, or are unfolding before me, involve mental health. And, it is almost incomprehensible sometimes until we have direct involvement — in our lives or our friend’s lives.

“And, I can say that one thing that I have learned, is to be grateful and thankful to all of you who have helped us who are less than knowledgeable, to understand, that when we look at someone in society that needs a help, that needs our assistance, that we are looking into the image and likeness of Christ, and that we must be humane.

“And we must be understanding and understand that society cannot ignore this problem, and if it does so, it does so at its peril.

“So I just want to say briefly, that I am grateful, I thank all of you who have dedicated your lives, or have dedicated time and talent to understanding this issue. And because of your help, you are helping to make Oklahoma a finer place to live, and a more humane place to live.”

In a knife-attack, Christian Costello killed his father Mark at a local restaurant on August 23. Christian has been charged with murder.

Mark died in his wife’s arms. On January 8, 2016, they would have been married 34 years.