The next commissioner for District 3, whether Democrat or Republican, must have a vision that encompasses the entire county.
Both incumbent Commissioner Randy Baldridge, Democrat, and his Republican opponent Kirt Thacker agree on that point calling for broader participation by individual commissioners in countywide economic development.
In statements made during a recent Chamber of Commerce-sponsored forum at Rogers State University the candidates laid out their thoughts about the role of the District 3 commissoner and why they believe they are the best candidates. Their comments are taken from the audio transcript from the forum.
“I believe a county commissioner has to be more than mowing ditches and building roads,” Thacker said. “A county commissioner has the responsibility to bring jobs and growth and industry to Rogers County.”
Baldridge, who is seeking a second term in the commissioner’s post, said while budgeting and seeing that proper protocols are followed is part of the role of a county commissooner, he sees economic development as a “large issue.”
Economic development will require continuing to work with the Port Authority, working with the Rogers County Economic and Industrial Authority and creating a relationship with CIEDA, Claremore’s Industrial and Economic Development Authority, Baldridge said.
Thacker said if elected, “I’d like to work with City of Claremore, if it’s possible, to bring overpass to the railroad someday so that we can bring bring more jobs and industry to Claremore and Rogers County.”
“I believe a Rogers County commissioner has to be the commissioner for the entire county, not just a small part of it. I believe that if we do our jobs correctly that politics won’t play into it,” Thacker said. We’re commissioners for everyone Republican, Democrat, Independent, it doesn’t matter. I believe that we should work hard for constituents ... whether a taxpayer or not, if they are a citizen and they live here, we are to be out there helping them, working hard for them to improve the quality of life for all citizens.”
As an experienced member of the three-member County Commission Board, Baldridge said, “We have worked hard to build relationships with small our communities ... We are not going to try to tear those down. We need to work with each and every entity. We need to always say positive things about every community.
“It shouldn’t be us vs. them; it should be us working together,” Baldridge said.
Kirt Thacker: Character matters
Thacker is a lifelong resident of Inola. He and his wife have four children who attend Inola Public Schools and he pastors a church in that area.
He believes character matters. “I believe, well my literature says, Pro-God, Pro-Life and Pro-Gun. I’ve been asked why do you put that on there. I understand it (the commissioner) is not a legislative voting position. It speaks to my character and what I believe. I believe people want honesty in their candidates and want them to stand for something and that’s why I put that on there,” he said. Thacker has since added “Pro-Family” to his campaign literature.
“My wife and I have lived in Inola all our lives ... I’m 37 years old and I’m a citizen of Rogers County because I think its the greatest place to live.
“Rogers County, as well a a great place to live, work and raise a family, I also believe it’s a great place not to visit, but to live and work and we’re hoping that if we bring jobs and growth to Rogers the people won’t just live here they will work here and spend their money and retire here, send their kids to school here,” Thacker said.
Thacker’s “conservative values” campaign has been endorsed by U.S. Senator Tom Coburn.
Baldridge also has been a lifelong resident of Rogers County.
He was educated in the Tiawah and Inola communities, attended Rogers State Unversity earning an associate degree in business and worked his way through college at Northeast State University while helping to take care of his parents during their illness. He earned a public administration degree at NSU with a minor in human resources.
“I’m also active in the Willeo Baptist Church, Claremore Rotary, Inola Lions Club past president, United Way, Rogers County Cherokee Association and the Claremore Convention and Visitors Bureau. I think these things are important for a commissioner to be active in his community so that he knows the needs of his constitutents,” he said.
Baldridge said, “My formal education has allowed me to do what commissioners do. They are the ones who oversee the property budgeting, with the help of (County Treasurer) Melissa Anderson, and with the proper protocol of expenditures are seen.
“I’ve done as I promise. I’ve kept an open door police to all constitutents of District 3. My employees have worked hard for you. I’ll let my work stand for itself,” Baldridge said.
While in the county seat, Baldridge has served on the INCOG, a regional economic development group, serving on the board and dealing with policy, transportation and grants.
“Through that organization, that agency, we have seen a major impact that has helped our economy,” he said.
Another area Baldridge sees as critical to the future growth of all Rogers County is the infrastructure.
“(It is) another important aspect helping ensure we have safe roads and bridge for our school buses and school children to make people want to move here and live here,” Baldridge said. He said if you look at the growth of the county, which is the fastest growing county in the state, it is evident “a lot of people want to move to Rogers County and make it home.”
“A lot have you ... have been here a long time ... but some of you are new here. You moved here for those reasons, moved here for our morals, our values our integrity and the lifestyle you can obtain here. The quality of life is great here in ro co and will continue to be so as long as we all continue to work together,” he said.
“If any of you know me, you know I work hard. My goal in my next term is to continue working for all citizens in Rogers County, not just part of it.
“I will continue to improve myself and District 3 employees through education that matters in my job.
“I also pledge to constantly seek out new resources which I have done in the past. I’ve created and obtained over half million dollars for Rogers County and District 3 constituents,” Baldridge said.
On a personal note, Baldridge thanked Cherokee Nation Tribal councilor representing Rogers County, Cara Cowan-Watts , and the Cherokee Nation, for the $150,000 contribution just this past year.
“I would also like to say I will strive and be a force to assist Rogers County in such endeavors, in completion of the waste water treatement plant, the railroad overpass, economic development effecting all of Rogers County.
“The position of Rogers County Commissioner is not a 9 to 5, Monday through Friday job. I’m on call 24-7,” Baldridge said.
Voters will decide the District 3 seat in the upcoming General Election. In-person absentee voting will be held starting Nov. 3, 4 and 6, with the precinct polls open on Nov. 7.