Junk, Michael

Michael Junk. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

Michael Junk needs to calm down.

And while he’s at it, he needs to stop worrying.

His candidate won the mayor’s race, and in so doing, Junk earned himself a new job: deputy mayor.

Mayor-elect G.T. Bynum announced his decision this weekend to name Junk one of the leaders of his administration when he takes office in December.

So what’s this 32-year-old father of two have to sweat? Nothing, that’s what.

But Michael Junk wouldn’t be Michael Junk if something weren’t running through his mind. In fact, it’s a quality that led Bynum to call him an “eternal pessimist” during the campaign.

“I’m definitely the pessimist. I kind of operate under the assumption that, if I assume things are going well and I think that we are going to win, I’m afraid I’ll back off,” Junk said. “And by me always thinking we’ve got to raise more money, we’ve got to knock on more doors, we’ve got to get another ad on television, it is kind of what drove me to work harder.”


GT Bynum On Election Day from Watch Frontier on Vimeo.


And to think Junk had never run a political campaign before. He knows all about politics, however.

After graduating from Metro Christian High School — he was a terrible ice hockey player there, he says — Junk went off to the University of Arkansas to study agriculture before finishing his undergraduate studies at the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a degree in political science and public administration.

After that, it was one political job after another, beginning in the summer of 2007 with an internship in Sen. Jim Inhofe’s Tulsa office. Then came more than four years in Washington, D.C., as a staffer for then-Sen. Tom Coburn. In 2011, Junk and his wife, Kathryn, moved back to Tulsa to raise their young family, and Junk hit the road working as a field representative for Sen. Coburn. Then, in 2013, Junk went back to work for Sen. Inhofe, where he served as a field representative and state policy director.

The guy likes politics. And he knows policy.

Bynum knew this. He and Junk had met professionally, and they had both worked in Washington for Coburn, though not at the same time. In a way, they were two peas in a pod both young, both smart, both looking to help create a better Tulsa for their children.

“From my standpoint — he and I having worked in similar jobs — I could tell he was very good at what he did,” Bynum said.

The problem was Bynum didn’t think Junk would be available, even after a good friend suggested he give him a call.

“He would be too perfect for it,” Bynum responded.

And it worked out perfectly: The first-time campaign manager helped the first-time mayoral candidate knock off two-term incumbent Dewey Bartlett, with Bynum winning more than 56 percent of the vote.

Junk downplays his role in the rout.

“I’d never run a campaign, but I’ve been around them,” he said. “And it’s not rocket science, it’s really not. If you are willing to do the hard work, and you’ve got the right message and you have somebody who can deliver it, you’re going to win.”

Of course, Bynum disagrees with that self-deprecating assessment.

“With Michael, he was a great team builder, people just gravitated toward him, wanted to work with him on things,” Bynum said. “And also, he was very good at running point to different bosses.”

Better yet, Bynum said, Junk’s a good guy.

“He is good to his core,” Bynum said. “I think that is why people are attracted to him. …He inspires loyalty among his teammates. That is one reason I wanted him to come run the campaign.”

Republican candidate for Tulsa mayor G.T. Bynum and his campaign manager Michael Junk react to precinct results at their watch party boiler room in the Stokely Event Center on election day in Tulsa, OK, June 28, 2016. Photo by Michael Wyke

Mayor-elect G.T. Bynum, left, and his campaign manager, Michael Junk, react to precinct results at their watch party boiler room in the Stokely Event Center on June 28. Junk, who is overseeing Bynum’s transition team, is expected to have a prominent role in Bynum’s administration. MICHAEL WYKE/For The Frontier

Junk’s parents, Tom and Kelly Junk, raised their children to not just be good, but to do good. Michael Junk has accompanied his parents on mission trips to places such as Peru, Mexico and Ghana.

In high school and college, Junk was active in Young Life, a non-denominational Christian organization that reaches out to adolescents through activities, camps and other programs.

Don’t get the wrong idea: He wasn’t spending all of his time back then leading prayer sessions. He loved the adventures Young Life offered, whether it was hiking or camping or — his favorite — driving the para-sailing boat. That was Junk’s summer job for two years during college.

“The best job I ever had,” he said.

This was about the same time Junk met his future wife, Kathryn Heisten. Today, they have two young children.

She says that, among other things, she was attracted to Junk’s zest for living and doing things.

“We always joke that our attic is full of like a million different remnants of the hobbies he picks up,” Kathryn Junk said. “Hunting, fishing, climbing, camping, ice climbing.”

His upcoming role as deputy mayor should keep him plenty busy.

If not, he can always go play “Call of Duty,” on his XBox, as he did on Election Day to calm his nerves.

Whatever it takes to get the job done. Because Junk, for all of his energy and good humor, likes to win. He’ll tell you so.

“I love winning,” he said. “I am very competitive person. Listen, we took a massive risk doing this. I made enemies with a lot of people, and so failure was truly not an option for me.”