John Feary makes no apology for his undecorated office at City Hall. The bare walls indicate he has been on the go since he stepped into the new position as Executive Director for Claremore Industrial and Economic Development Authority (CIEDA) on Feb. 13.
The Jenks native recently took time to reflect on the path that brought him to Claremore and his hopes for the city moving forward.
His introduction to public service began in 2003 as he ran a successful campaign for a Tulsa County official. Spending six years with the City of Tulsa, he was recruited away by the City of Owasso.
During his time in Owasso he worked as a project manager and dealt with public infrastructure that was privately financed as well as managing capital improvement projects.
“My time in Owasso was a valuable experience,” stated Feary. One of his many accomplishments was overseeing and maintaining a budget on a multi-million dollar wastewater treatment plant upgrade.
When his predecessor Jeri Koehler decided to take on a new Deputy City Manager position, Feary was excited to step into the role at CIEDA to take part in Claremore's growth.
“If Oklahoma had a spine it would be Oklahoma City, but I think the heart is right here in northeast Oklahoma and Claremore is a big part of that,” Feary stated.
Spending ample time in legislative affairs, special projects, tax initiatives and policies, Feary advocates his passion for finding an avenue for municipalities to have a more diverse revenue source. Feary says to be successful he firmly believes that communities have to stop relying on sales tax dollars to function.
Feary believes job creation helps with a myriad of issues communities face.
“If you put people to work, ancillary problems go away,” he said.
Explaining that shortcomings in education, failure at home and communities, whether socioeconomic or criminal, can be corrected if people have jobs.
“I'm very big on quality job creation,” Feary said.
Moving forward, Feary and his board of directors will put a big emphasis on Claremore's manufacturing and job recruitment.
Pointing out that Claremore has assets that most communities are not privy to, such as 200 acres of developable land in the industrial park which is already half equipped with roads, water and sewer line. The park also has a rail spur with direct access to the Port of Catoosa and amazing highway systems between Route 66, Interstate 44, Hwy 169, State Hwy 20 and Hwy 69 into Dallas.
“If you're a manufacturer and you primarily have a domestic product, there is no better place to build it and ship it than from Claremore,” Feary said.
The CIEDA director says that the city would love to see thousands of new jobs over the next ten years.
Yet he points out that a lot of work comes by trying to make Claremore stand out above the rest as they compete with six states for some of the same business opportunities.
Stating that Oklahoma has some of the best career tech programs in the country with a workforce that wants to work and will work is also a selling point for the city and county. Feary believes that Rogers county in general sets the Oklahoma standard in their resolve to want to be better.
“I think we're going to see a lot of big things in this community, Rogers County and this region within the next few years,” Feary predicted.
The topic of regionalism is one Feary takes seriously and stresses the importance of communities working together. He has chaired the development economy and taxes task force for the last two years through the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce One Voice agenda. Feary is also appreciative of the foundation laid before him by Koehler.
“Jeri not only brought a lot of notoriety to Claremore, she also developed a phenomenal staff,” he said. “I'm lucky to still have her around as a resource as CIEDA steers in the direction of job development.”
Koehler will still play a part in looking at retail development for the city.
Feary has also been spending time getting familiar with the Claremore community. He and his wife Chelsea, along with his children Ian and Emma, enjoy eating at various restaurants around town and shopping local.
Already figuring out that Claremore is filled with some of the friendliest people in northeast Oklahoma, he looks forward to helping the city grow.