Mark Costello Remembered
Friends and colleagues of Mark Costello gathered in front of the state capitol last night to honor the late Labor Commissioner.
Friends described Costello as someone who made others feel special. He took time to know colleagues, and sent out birthday cards. Costello was known for a sense of humor that helped lighten the mood, and he famously passed out fake fifty trillion dollar bills.
State senator John Sparks, a Democrat, said Costello was dedicated to civil discourse.
“There’s a lot of discourse in this building, but not always civil,” Sparks said. “He was always open to new ideas. He was always willing to discuss things on their merits. To have thoughtful conversations.”
Mourners wore green ribbons to symbolize mental health awareness. Costello’s adult son, Christian, killed his father on Sunday at a Braums restaurant in Oklahoma City. Christian Costello suffers from mental illness.
Oklahoma County sheriff John Whetsel was a friend of Mark Costello,and he challenged attendees to ensure mental health services are more readily available and more intertwined with the criminal justice system.
“While sadly we can’t undo this tragedy, we can work to create a mental health system that might avert the next,” Whetsel said. “It’s up to each one of us to help Mark complete his legacy by putting talk into action.”
Costello’s chief of staff, Jim Marshall, told the crowd that Oklahoma's mental health system is lacking and pleaded state leaders to take action to fix the system.
“The state of Oklahoma is a good state. We’re populated by good people. The core function of government is to protect its people,” Marshall said. “That protection must extend to those that have mental health issues within their family.”
Marshall, who knew Costello since 1992 and worked as his chief-of-staff for the last five years, believes that if Costello were alive today, he would ask the state government to reevaluate its priorities.
“Repurpose existing funding and apply it to best practices,” Marshall said. “Look elsewhere outside of Oklahoma how mental health issues are dealt with and bring that to Oklahoma. Bring it quickly, and bring it full. The Costello family deserves no less.”