(Part One of Three, continuing with The People Who Loved Him Into Being and Paradigm Shifts & Looking Forward)
Brandy Loyd Wreath, 46 years old, Choctaw, OK:
Born and bred Oklahoman, youngest son in the blended family of a Pastor-Police Chief and Juvenile Officer, also church preacher and organist, descendant of Land Run farmer and ranchers, small town entrepreneurs, church founders and conservative local politicians and campaign workers, Brandy is a fascinating and ever evolving portrait of both deeply rooted heritage and modern cowboy self determination. It’s a rare and beautiful, very Oklahoman combination of qualities. He loves fiercely, works himself to the bone, and never stops dreaming for the future. Please enjoy a distilled version of our long and meandering conversation!
What kind of potato chip would you be? “Cool Ranch Doritos, because, “I am cool and live on a ranch.”
Does 46 years old feel anything like how you thought it would? “Sometimes, but no, it’s much better. I thought it would be boring and we would eat at Applebee’s every day at four. While I have nothing against a 4 pm dinnertime, life is not boring.”
What are your love languages? “Things and gifts, as much as I hate to admit it, especially toys. Also food and a specific love language not fit for public sharing.” (The not-fit for-public-sharing asterisk occurred several times in our Q&A.) Brandy also appreciates words of appreciation, more than he likes to admit. He just likes to know his efforts are not in vain, and I don’t blame him. It is in his nature to want to make a difference.
In 46 years you have already witnessed a stunning array of history being made in real time (as he sat for this interview in our living room, every headline was about Russia invading Ukraine.) What comes to mind, what made deep impressions on you? He quickly rattled off memories about the Capitol riots last year, the space shuttle Challenger explosion (one of his grade school teachers had been named as an alternate to Christa McAuliffe), Desert Storm, the Murrah Building bombing (this was particularly pivotal in his life, as both of his parents served as first responders and continued serving for weeks after April 19, 1995), September 11, and more. He said solemnly, “All these bad things kind of stick out as chapter markers, they say our innocence has changed.” Then he added, “But the Berlin Wall coming down, The European Union, those were good.” I love to watch his countenance shift as he carefully guides his own perspective.
Brandy breezed through his public school education in Moore, Oklahoma, where he enjoyed myriad sports as well as band instruction in junior high. By high school he chose to pursue more business and professional classes instead of music, but he continued playing trumpet for church and still today has an easy time picking through new songs on our piano. He just has an ear for melody. He can actually play all the brass instruments, plus drums, but he does regret not taking his mom’s offer to learn piano more seriously, as well as his grandpa’s offer to learn guitar. When he remembers them both, his voice drips with affection.
Brandy’s present career is in government with the utilities industry. He serves as Director of Public Utilities at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, but he provides more support to the agency and the people there than his title can possibly convey (those are my words, not his). He cares deeply about the agency and industry as an interconnected organism, and he has a talent for developing talent. This and more shine through in his long-cultivated professional relationships as well as in his team’s results year after year, crisis after crisis (again, my words, not his).
Does your career reflect what you thought you would be doing at this point in life? Is this what you wanted to be when you grew up? He laughed, “Not at all. Not in any way, shape or form.” As a little boy, Brandy wanted to be a race car driver and a banker. He got to be a banker already, which he said was horrible. So far he has not been a race car driver… legally.
This Commish job is nothing like what little red headed Brandy from Moore, OK, dreamed of doing. And yet here he is, excelling and building his division in ways that only surprise people who don’t know him. His knack for managing people as full spectrum human beings, not just resumes, makes him effective, not to mention his deep concern for fairness and transparency. (These are my words again. He will groan when he sees this.)
How did your education prepare you for what you do now? “My education? I don’t really think it did. I think that what prepared me for what I do was the way I was raised.” He spoke so gently of his upbringing, it conjured in my mind dozens of little boy photos and stories I have heard so many times over the years.
He became animated, almost defensive, definitely proud: “Being born into service and politics and respecting government. You know, I wasn’t raised in a house that complained about government all the time. I was raised in a house that appreciated the sacrifice. I was raised in a house that acknowledged people were doing the same for less money, or for no appreciation. I was raised in a house that, someone ran for public office and I saw what people did, even back then, how they were treated just for trying to serve. I was raised understanding that people are just really ungrateful, but that someone’s got to do it. So I think that it’s helped me in my role, to be able to endure that. Because I was raised with people treating government that way. Even 30, 40 years ago, people treated government this way. It may not have been on social media, but people said it everywhere you went. I remember hearing comments when Dad was Mayor. As a little kid. I remember comments at coffee shops.”
Brandy illustrated his Dad’s triple-threat career of being Councilman and Mayor of Moore, running an auto body shop in Moore, and also maintaining law enforcement hours as Chief of Police in Hallpark, all with a bonus side of helping to found a church. Brandy’s admiration for Harvey is always palpable. But he describes it all as service. “It angered me as a kid, long before I was in government. I know that gave me an appreciation that we’re there for more than money.”
Brandy also believes that government work is a privilege. “It may not get you rich, but it takes a calling.” He likes to include in the concept of public heroes those people who “sacrifice their amazing skill sets to try to make the world better.” He selects his employees based on a willingness to make meaningful contributions, rather than people obviously seeking an ego-boosting job or immense wealth. He seeks after people seeking to make a difference. He offered this about his management experience over the years: “I’ve had hundreds of employees (with a) background (not) great for this job. I think the way I was raised made me appreciate (this job) more.”
To be clear, his college education did weigh heavily in math, science, business, and ethics; and his years in banking gave him experience and licensure in the stock market. He certainly acknowledges that practical foundation. But what drives him and keeps his momentum strong is how his values were formed, by his upbringing.
I asked him what might be next in his career. His answer was so honest, so calming and satisfying, that it made me hope everyone can find a path in life where they can work so steadily, and with such satisfaction: “I honestly don’t want to do anything different; I just want to do this better. I like what I do. I want to appreciate it more. I want to find ways to get more people to appreciate it. That’s when I will feel successful. When there aren’t people complaining about things they should be saying thank you for. You know, that would be a great day. So there’s still plenty to do now before I worry about what’s next frankly. ”
I had already planned to ask him about how he might advice young adults just starting their careers, or high school and college students planning a brand new path. His answers about his own path were deeper than I expected. He provided more than a scholastic guidance counselor might, and I was equally delighted when I finally asked: What advice would you give to high school or college students, or to any young adult planning their career path? He broke down a bit, seemingly lost again in some nostalgia. “Take more time learning from the people that are around you. The classroom is great. I would not detract from the great teachers or professors I had. I mean they were incredible, and they taught me a lot. But the real education I got was from the people right there, all day, every day. The amazing things that I saw my parents doing and involved in that I took for granted as a kid. Maybe I was lucky.”
He gathered his emotions and continued, “Find people in your life. See the amazing people around you. Start having some wonder about the people who are right there. Look to those people and learn from them. College is great, but that is not what’s gonna make you different.”
Describe your ideal day off in winter: “Comfy clothes, whatever food I want on tap, TV, a cuddle, pet my dog. It’s a little gray outside instead of fake sunshine that tricks my mind into wanting to do something productive or be out and about.” We talked about how he wants nothing to be broken or in need of repair or construction, how he wants the office to leave him alone, and how he hopes nobody needs him for that day. His body relaxed into the leather couch as he affirmed these requirements.
Describe your ideal day off in summer: “Sunshine, swimming pool, bikini (he quickly clarified that the bikini is for me, not him), a steak, and then air conditioning to come inside to at night. And again work not needing me, no one else needing me, also definitely nothing broken.”
What recharges you, what restores you to feeling like yourself when you are depleted? “Easy answer? Laughter. True recharge is just to enjoy, be happy.”
For all his math-mindedness, Brandy has one of the richest artistic streaks I have ever seen, and he creates and solves problems prolifically, with bendiness and inventiveness. I asked him to distinguish between art and creativity: “Creativity to me is something that just feels good to do. Like I feel I’m creative, but to me art is something other people can enjoy, which does not feel like my bag,” he laughed that off. He asserted that art “is done for other people to enjoy,” whether it’s music, the spoken word, paintings. “That’s how I see it anyway.”
I asked him about favorite styles of art, and his answer was quick: “Probably most powerful is music.” He comes by this honestly. His mom, Judy Wreath, was a talented musician who raised him on all things piano and organ, Elvis and Beethoven, and she encouraged him to practice his own music, in church and beyond. “But I love almost all of it. Can’t think of any art I don’t enjoy.” His favorite music? “It’s impossible. I love all music. Just depends on the mood. Classical, country, rock, rap. Honestly there are days that it’s all the favorite, depending on the mood, the activity.”
What are some of your favorite personal creative projects? He quickly nominated the newly constructed Batmobile as his favorite. “It’s not traditional but a lot of heart and art got put into it.” He also loves his simple welded green Dino, something he had always wanted but couldn’t afford from Sinclair, and he is still planning to add more to it. He mentioned the colorful skull mural on our big barn. Brandy also greatly enjoyed designing and building all of our wooden easels for Outreach painting nights. He said that project was maybe more fun than the painting event itself. “Doing things to prepare for fun ends up being a big part of the fun.” Probably still in its infancy of usefulness is the yurt, another favored Pandemic build. One day we added huge lettering to the canvas roof, words like “healing” and “you are loved.” They are big enough that maybe Mediflight helicopters flying over could see them. Knowing the words are there for strangers is a precious feeling.
Which was your favorite Star Trek Series? (We have over the past few years worked our way through each of the spinoffs in storyline order, as opposed to production order.) He said, “Probably Enterprise, because it was innocent, and while they had technology, they weren’t fully dependent on it yet. They had to be problem solvers. And I really liked the captain, Archer. Kinda cowboy, kinda just get it done attitude. Not a womanizer like Kirk, not pretentious like Picard, he just wanted to get things done. He took care of his people.”
Ok but why do you always root for the villain in a movie or television show? His answer was shockingly thorough and worthy of an entire college class on either obvious psychology or anarchy; it’s often hard for me to know the difference. He listed as his irrefutable criteria for favoring the Bad Guy, four common traits of the best characters: 1) Villains tend to live more genuinely, being unapologetic about what they want. 2) Villains do not behave in polite, inefficient ways. 3) Villains usually dress cooler, specifically wearing lots more black. And, 4) Villains have better cars.
My husband went on to provide a litany of supporting stories as evidence. “Skeletor was always laughing and having fun, and I mean Jedis were wearing bathrobes, so…” His shrug and unblinking expression dared me to pull apart his answer. I chose to let it sit but circled back to it later, when we discussed The Walking Dead. We also circled back to cars.
What would you think if someone saw you as the villain in a story? He shrugged again and smirked, “Oh well! I must be being very efficient!” We both laughed, him confidently and me a bit nervously. I shuffled my papers before moving on.
“The Law of Attraction’s Not Real, Babe.
Mitt Romney Wanted to be President Real Bad.”
~Brandy Wreath, innocent dreamer
and shameless pragmatist
Check back throughout the coming days for parts 2 and 3.