Oates moved to Clay from San Francisco, California in 2000, following his mother who returned to her native city after the death of her husband. Before relocating he worked for 10 years as a probation counselor, but was looking for a career change. His interest in history led him to apply for the opening at Oak Hill.
Oates' wife, Gabriela, is a native of Bulgaria. They currently live in South Avondale and have two children; Mina and Teddy. Oates also has two adult children from a previous marriage.