A legacy of service and commitment in Oklahoma 

State Sen. Kevin Matthews started his public service career as a state representative in 2012, taking office on Nov. 14. He later became a state senator in April 2015.

April 25 • 2024

The IAFF is highlighting the efforts of Oklahoma legislators and aspiring politicians in a four-part series, showcasing their dedication to advocating for fire fighters. 

State Senator Kevin Matthews has spent more than a decade fighting for workers’ rights in his distinguished career marked by service and advocacy. 

State Sen. Kevin Matthews, a Tulsa native, has dedicated his life to service as a fire fighter and public servant. 

Matthews served the Tulsa Fire Department for 25 years and has been a member of Tulsa, OK Local 176 for 39 years. Throughout his career he held various roles, including fire fighter, HazMat technician, public information officer, and recruiter. He became the department’s first African-American Administrative Fire Chief before retiring in 2010. 

Two years later, he became a state representative, and a state senator in 2015, where he currently chairs the Democratic Caucus in the Oklahoma Senate. His motivation for entering politics was to ensure the voices of the working class were heard and represented. 

“I took office as State Representative in 2012 because previous elected officials had not come from labor backgrounds or represented my economic interests,” said Matthews. 

As a past participant in the IAFF’s Political Training Academy, Matthews says it was a significant step in his political journey.  

“It was key in teaching me how to campaign and win,” he said. “My local union sponsored my attendance to IAFF political training and donated the maximum to my campaign, influencing other locals to do the same.” 

In addition to his legislative duties, Matthews has played pivotal roles in various initiatives aimed at honoring history and promoting civil rights. As the Founder and Chair of the 1921 Race Massacre Centennial Commission, he has spearheaded efforts to commemorate Tulsa’s past, shedding light on important narratives often overlooked.  

I took office as State Representative in 2012 because previous elected officials had not come from labor backgrounds or represented my economic interests.

Senator kevin matthews, (d-tulsa)

Matthews believes in the power of political engagement to make a positive difference. By encouraging people to use resources like the IAFF’s Political Training Academy, he hopes to empower others to shape their communities’ future through politics. 

“No other entity can prepare you better,” he said. “It is also important to align with other IAFF candidates across the country that you can call on to share best practices.” 

Local 176 President Matt Lay highlighted several achievements of the International Association of Fire Fighters under the leadership of Matthews and Representative Stan May. These include obtaining a Centennial Proclamation for Local 176 in 2019, passing the first cost-of-living adjustment (HB3350) for retired fire fighters in 2020 after a 12-year gap, enacting a bill authored by May to protect MDA Collections (HB 2238), passing the Public Safety Revenue Diversification Bill (SB838) in 2021, reinstating 20-year pensions for Oklahoma fire fighters (HB 2487), establishing and funding the State First Responder Wellness program (SB 1613), and securing funding for local and state Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) teams authored by May in 2022.