Following the mayoral candidates forum, candidates vying for Claremore City Council Ward II and Ward IV seats took their turn answering questions Monday night at Rogers State University.
Claremore voters will go to the polls on Tuesday, April 5 to elect a mayor and city councilors.
Moderated by Dan Schiedel of RSU Public TV, the forum featured four candidates — Don Purkey and Dwayne Caldwell, vying for the Ward II seat and Bill Flanagan and Cory Williams, Ward IV seat contenders — each of whom shared what was on their mind, and why they deserved a vote.
“It’s good to be here tonight and a great opportunity for me to run for council again — my father was with the city for 12 years, my brother served for four years on the city council, and I’d served 22 years — service to the city has been very important to my family,” said Ward II seat hopeful Purkey. “I grew up in Claremore and graduated from Claremore and Oklahoma Military Academy, I worked eight years with the U.S. Air Force, government contract work, and my background in work has been with American Manufacturing.
“Unlike Mr. Purkey, I wasn’t born here, but we moved here in ‘83, and I really consider this my home,” said Ward II Councilman Caldwell. “As a Claremore resident, I’d seen what had gone on in the city council. Some of the things in the last few years and thought it was time for me to get involved. I’m also president of the Route 66 Cruisers Car Club, here in Claremore. It’s just a pleasure to be involved in the city council. I’m in the council right now and have been for the past three months. We’ve got a lot of plans for Claremore.”
Do you approve or disapprove of outsourcing and why?
“I definitely disapprove of outsourcing,” said Caldwell. “I think we can save money. We need to look at that, as there are a lot of problems with outsourcing because we’re making other people rich. I think it was in the 90’s when they decided to go with outsourcing.”
“I’m also against outsourcing for a number of reasons. You lose your quality of people, you lose experience, and you don’t really have a handle on things the way you do when you get work done in-house,” Purkey said. “It would be nice to know what the figures have produced since the last city manager implemented this. I do know Fleet Management, which I believe was the first to be outsourced, has doubled its budget. The figures I looked at originally were $420,000 and now they’ve gone to $1 million, so there’s something wrong.”
What is your vision for traffic in Claremore?
“Speed it up,” joked Purkey. “The feeling is, we’ve got the roads for people to use, but we’ve had problems with these lights. We need the highway for the traffic, but we also need the loop. We’ve been very poor to get that with ODOT. There are some things we could probably do. I’d like to see some effort made on Archer Street, where it connects to SH66, and there’s some work we can do on Blue Starr.”
“Well, we need to synchronize the (traffic) lights, for one thing. I think that’s already been said, but it’s one thing I hear from people when I’m out campaigning,” Caldwell said. “Synchronizing the lights won’t solve the problem, but it will help. We do need to do something with Archer, something with Blue Starr, we need to elevate the tracks. Whatever we need to do, we need to get it done and do it as soon as possible.”
Purkey and Caldwell answered why each wished to be on the city council.
Caldwell emphasized his goal to make Claremore a destination town, not a “drive through,” and Purkey noted it was “in his blood.” The pair made their closing statements as to why they should be elected to represent Ward II.
“I don’t really look at individual wards, I look at the whole city,” Purkey said. “A ward is simply a position where people can pair up and run against each other, then the city gets together and votes on them. When you’re talking about a ‘ward’, you’re talking about the whole town.
“My priorities (if elected) would be to recognize problems. I’ve always been a capital guy. Also, water storage, we need to be able to store more water. There are several things we need to look at that I’m not really sure are being addressed at this time,” he said. “I have some big things on my mind, dealing with the future and longevity of this city. They deal with water quality, traffic and trains. I’ve got ideas, of course. I’ve got extensive experience with the city and I know I can make a difference, and do a good job representing the citizens of Claremore.”
“Since I’m running in Ward II, I want to make out we get electricity. Mine went out twice on Saturday,” Caldwell said. “It’s all because our electric lines weren’t put in conduits when they were put in back in the 90’s, and now we’ve got to do it all over again. When were you on the board, Don?”
“In the 90’s,” Purkey answered.
“This is something that we’re going to have to work on — the sewer system. This has got to be taken care of,” Caldwell said. “We need to look how the public’s money is being spent. There have been wasteful projects. I’m a team player and as a team player on the city council, I’ll be watching what’s going on with the public’s money.”
After the Ward II candidates left, contenders for the Ward IV seat took the stage, touching on issues of housing, business friendliness, and their philosophies.
“My priority (if elected) in Ward IV would be the traffic. Traffic is a major problem in Claremore, particularly in Ward IV,” Flanagan said. “I was on a road committee about five years ago which designed a loop using county roads and making those super two-lanes, but when new administration came in, we never met again on that project. This needs to be looked at again.”
“I tend to agree with you, Bill,” said Williams, who was appointed in November 2010 to fill the unexpired seat of former councilman Tony Mullenger. “In my short time on the city council, I’ve found that this city government is a big fan of studies. We study things way too much, and as a school teacher, I know studying is important, but action is even more important. As far as a priority for Ward IV, electric and sewer are still problems for us, as well as for the rest of the city.”
“I have a unique position in that I was on the city council in the ‘80’s and I was involved in the transition to a city manager form of government,” Flanagan said. “As a successful businessman and proven leader, I feel we can set priorities and use our limited resources to achieve our goals. We’ve got a lot of challenges ahead, but we need to invest in creating jobs and increasing the quality of life for everyone who lives in our great city.
“Something not asked me here tonight is why I’m doing this (running for re-election),” Williams said. “I’m doing this because I love this town, and civic responsibility, political science, education, getting involved in your community is something that’s been in me for a while. From a college student on (RSU’s) campus to being involved with student government organizations, to teaching and getting students involved. When I first heard that an opening was going to be on the city council, I saw it as an opportunity to put my words into action. To serve. I’m a native of and product of this town. It’s a great community to live in and is only going to get better as it grows. I want to a be a continued part of the process involved in that positive growth.”
A forum between the Ward III candidates Terry Willis and Martin Joyner also had been scheduled for the evening, but Joyner withdrew from the forum. He is still in the race.