Attention voters, are you doing your research? Election season is in full swing, and candidates are working to get their names known before the primary vote on June 26.
In addition to the state-wide elections such as governor, there are three Oklahoma County races to consider in Luther and Eastern Oklahoma County. Registered voters will elect a Treasurer, Assessor and District One Commissioner. Currently held by Willa Johnson who is not seeking re-election, Oklahoma County District One includes rural areas like Luther, Jones and Spencer, but also voter-populated urban areas of Oklahoma City that stretch all the way to MacArthur Boulevard in the west.
Six candidates, four Democrats and two Republicans, are campaigning for the job. Although candidate John Pettis, Jr., faces felony embezzlement charges, his name is expected to remain on the ballot. The candidates include political newcomers and seasoned candidates. They are vying for the job that pays about $110,000 a year.
While some of the county commission candidates have come campaigning in Luther, others have told The Luther Register they will come as we’ve reached out to them on their Facebook candidate pages and websites. According to candidate paperwork, most of the candidates live in urban or suburban areas and that gives Luther resident Brian Carpenter pause. “Seems to me the only time these people come out here is when they need votes to win an election, they smile and nod for the cameras and then go back to the city and ignore us until the next election,” he said.
What does a County Commissioner do? Although it’s been about 40 years, the County Commissioner scandal in Oklahoma is still known as the largest public corruption case in US history. It garnered 230 guilty pleas in a wide-ranging kickback scheme involving elected county commissioners and equipment suppliers. These days, with presumably more accountability, the county website lists commissioners’ duties:
- Supervise and manage all real estate owned by the County. The Board maintains the Courthouse, County Office Building, Investors Capital Building, County Jail, Human Services Center, Juvenile Center, Extension Center, a parking garage, and three highway maintenance offices.
- Advertise for bids on major County purchases and award all contracts.
- Approve all claims covering materials, supplies, or services purchased by all County offices and paid for by County funds.
- Call all County bond elections.
- Designate, construct, maintain, and repair all County highways and bridges.
- Through the Department of Social Services, provide pharmacy services and prescription medicines, emergency food vouchers, indigent burials, ambulance service, medical services, temporary housing and convalescent care, and job training for the indigent, destitute, and unemployable County residents. It also helps coordinate the federal Food Stamp program.
- Pass on all zoning applications and regulations of the County Planning Commission. (One member of the Board serves on the Planning Commission.)
- Conduct proceedings, set date of election, canvass returns, and issue Order of Incorporation of all towns and/or cities in the County.
- Audit the accounts of all County offices.
- Publish in a County newspaper a complete report of the official proceedings of all meetings of the Board.
- Appoint one member of the County Excise Board and Board of Equalization.
Outgoing Commissioner Willa Johnson’s office was involved in the Luther-Jones gate project on the Turner Turnpike that opened in January 2016. District One also has helped the Town of Luther and Luther Public Schools on various projects such as road and bridge work, tree removal and other needs.
What would you like to know about our county commission candidates? Submit a question or comment below and we’ll include it as we seek interviews with each candidate for Oklahoma County Commissioner.