Two business owners and two former trustees are running to serve on the Luther Town Board. During a joint campaign appearance recently with school board candidates at the Chicken Shack, sponsored by The Luther Register, they introduced themselves and took questions from those who took time out to come meet them.
Brian Hall is the owner of Thermal Kat Heating and Air Conditioning. He is seeking to carry on a second generation of service to the town, following his dad who served on the board and as mayor.
Carolyn Lawson, a lifelong resident who is now retired as a hair dresser, was appointed to the board but was not elected in 2017.
Andy McDaniels, moved his family to Luther for small town life. He said he has both been elected and appointed to serve on the Luther Town Board. With a background in wildlife management, he now works with AtLink Services internet as its community liaison.
Dr. Jeff Schwarzmeier, is a chiropractor (who makes house calls) and moved to Luther to get back to his rural rural roots growing up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. He is a former owner of a vineyard north of town limits, and says he is “committed to making Luther a friendly place for people and business” on his campaign mailer.
The four candidates are running to be the top two vote getters in the April 2, 2019, election to succeed Trustees Lea Ann Jackson and Jason Roach who did not seek re-election,.
Dr. Jeff Schwarzmeier
He says to just call him Dr. Jeff, that way he jokes, “no one has to remember that name.” A conversation with him will soon turn to his passion, health and honesty. He is an encourager about wellness and would like to see a medical clinic in Luther to help with emergencies or even to cut down the number of trips his neighbors have to take to the city for medical care. Dr. Jeff says he is interested in managed growth for Luther, noting “the city is moving here” as the area becomes more attractive to those seeking a small town life. “What type of town do we want? Regardless we need new businesses and money for sales taxes to continue helping the Town move in the right direction,” he said at the candidate event.
“The taxes you pay make this town what it is and that’s your money and needs to be spent properly. If not, why?,” he said. Dr. Jeff pointed to budgetary discipline and preparing for future infrastructure as goals to continue.
Serving takes integrity, transparency, honesty and accountability, he said.
“I love this place. I want to stay here for a long time.”
“I’m running because I love where I live and want to serve our community,” said Andy McDaniels. He said he has a background in grant writing, legislation and conservation, “I was appointed twice and elected once to the Town Board,” he said. Visit his campaign website.
“With my background, I want to serve to preserve Luther’s historic character and help it grow. I’d hate for Luther become another Edmond,” he said.
He said his experience gives him an edge to join the board. “When you run for council, you have great ideas and get in there and realize there’s a hell of a lot of problems to overcome,” he said recalling past problems with a rusty water tower, and an employee who was convicted of stealing from the town. That employee also neglected to pay taxes, and resulted in hefty fines that the Town has only recently paid off.
In 2017, McDaniels joined a revived Luther Parks Commission but resigned. At the candidate event, current Parks Commission member Dr. Rosemarie Strong said they could have used his grant writing experience. She asked McDaniels whether he would have more time to serve on the board now.
“I joined the parks commish selfishly to see our parks get better, and the trees that burned get replaced, those sorts of things. It seemed to be a lot of events that take a lot of time,” he replied. The Parks Commission organized Luther’s stop on the Oklahoma Free Wheel Bike Tour last year that won the town far-reaching respect, accolades and the title, Best Town. “I understand trees and bugs and butterflies, but at work I represent 258 towns and had to support my family so I couldn’t be at another parks meeting and a (work) banquet.”
McDaniels said if elected, he’ll bring his knowledge and grant writing skills back to the table. “Having a new board is great, experience is good too.”
A conversation with Carolyn Lawson always results in a laugh, and learning a nugget or two about her life and the town she loves. She told the Chicken Shack candidate crowd about her beloved late husband, Jerry, and the daughter, Cindy, she lost to cancer, and how proud she is of her son and daughter and their families, and her grandchildren and now great grandchildren.
“Thank you everybody. I’m interested in our town and school. We are still a growing,” she said she has been here all of her life and was a hairdresser for 40 years at Will Rogers World Airport in the 1990s and has two two salons in ‘Edmond America.”
“My reason I am running is to get more revenue to come into our town for all of us so we can be happy with our sports and community. We all are close and love the country. We are relaxed, that’s really true, we are next to lakes. We need more revenue in our town,” she said.
“Thanks everybody. Make sure you know who you want to vote for. Everybody is interested in our community,” she said.
Brian Hall chose to stay in Luther after graduating from Luther High School and grow a successful heat and air conditioning business. Being a small business owner in his hometown, has given him a new perspective. If elected, he said he’d like to work on infrastructure issues, including roads, and give back to the community where he grew up.
Hall has no doubt learned from his dad, and from those currently serving that being elected to a seat on the Luther Town Board is not a “figurehead” position where you just show up for a monthly meeting. Hall said he’s up to the challenge, is willing to learn and is ready to work.
“I agree with the other candidates, let’s grow the town and keep everything going,” said Hall.
Since 2017, the Town Board has had not one, but two meetings most months with many lengthy agendas to tackle issues that range from updating town ordinances and codes to improving the police department’s vehicle fleet, making a budget and sticking to it, paying off old debts while being able to put money in the Rainy Day Fund, among other issues. Along the way, the board has hired a new police chief, a town manager and new office and maintenance staff members.
Issues involve meeting actions where votes are taken and issues discussed, in accordance with Open Meetings Laws. Since 2017, each trustee has taken on an area as a liaison and develops agenda items pertinent to their areas. What is not seen between meetings is the hours of research, getting bids, outside meetings, phone calls, emails and more research to prepare. Most of the board members say they will also visit with any resident who has questions, concerns or ideas, and wish they’d get more of those calls, emails or coffee appointments.
While elected officials serve as volunteers, they also recognize that public scrutiny comes with the territory, as evidenced by comments on social media. There is also compromise that was evidenced during the first of now two water rate hikes, and public input sought during the Town’s planning process through surveys and public hearings. Watching the town’s website, following (and supporting your only local news source), are ways to stay apprised. For reference, here’s the Town’s Master Plan. The plan along with updated zoning guidelines, a new Planning Commission and Board of Adjustment, and a new code enforcement officer are recent activities undertaken by the Town Board.
The election is Tuesday, April 2. Voters outside of town limits will also have a ballot for the school board between incumbent Sherri Anderson and challenger Justin Wood.
“The most important thing is to be involved. Show up at meetings. if you have concerns show up, get involved,” McDaniels said at the end of the candidate event.
“If you disagree, tell them. The only time the board room is packed is when people are mad. We are all in this together; let’s work together,” he said.
Watch the candidate event here. Special thanks to The Chicken Shack for hosting and to everyone who took time out to attend and participate.