By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
A Republican incumbent who has striven to increase accountability and transparency in county government is being challenged in his re-election bid by a political newcomer who believes more fiscal responsibility and common sense are needed.
Marc Hader, a Surrey Hills’ Republican, is seeking his second four-year term as Canadian County’s District 1 county commissioner.
Running against Hader is Piedmont’s Marcus Hall, a Libertarian and small business owner.
Ballots will be cast in the Tuesday, Nov. 6 general election, with the winner starting the next term in January 2019.
Hader said he got an early start to his multi-faceted reelection campaign, using several avenues to reach constituents. This includes media advertising, social media and frequently attending community functions.
“Growing up as a preacher’s kid, I have a heart of service,” Hader said. “I have been honored to serve the citizens of Canadian County and District 1 for these past four years. I will continue serving the county and our communities, no matter what happens in the election.”
Hader reflected on his first term in office, which began in January 2014 after voters elected him to succeed retired District 1 Commissioner Phil Carson.
“I have enjoyed even the challenges,” Hader said. “I am like Han Solo (in Star Wars) when he says, ‘Don’t tell me the odds’. I’ve always been a person who’s happy to take on a challenge, to sit down at the table and find a solution to a problem that people think can’t be fixed.”
When he first ran for the office four years ago, accountability and transparency in county government were hallmarks of his campaign.
“I am an advocate for conducting performance audits of county departments,” he said. “The State Auditor’s Office has done performance audits already on all three commissioners’ maintenance facilities and the sheriff’s office. I would like to continue with other departments.”
It was Hader’s idea to take some county commissioners’ meetings “on the road,” with several evening sessions held in various municipalities.
“We’ve been to almost every city and town in the county,” he said. “I want folks to know we’re accountable and accessible to them.”
The commissioners recently hired Canadian County government’s first human resources director and are in the process of hiring its first information technology director.
Quality roads are a top priority for county commissioners like Hader.
“I’m more interested in building quality roads that will last a long time,” he said.
Hader is in talks with adjoining jurisdictions to accomplish several sorely needed road improvements: Wilshire Road from 11th Street to Richland, Gregory Road from Highway 66 to Interstate 40, a five-mile section of Waterloo Road, and a five-mile stretch north of Concho.
Crews just completed chip and seal of five District 1 road miles in northwest El Reno, and Hader is urging Oklahoma City officials to resurface Cemetery Road north of Wilshire.
The District 1 incumbent says he fully supports the Canadian County Children’s Justice Center and believes he has been unjustly criticized because of his role in a 2016 election to reduce a .35 percent county sales tax that funds center operations.
“I am a fiscally conservative person, and we proposed a small reduction (to .30 percent) in the sales tax,” Hader said. “We put it to a vote of the people and did not force it down people’s throats. We let the voters decide.
“Scores of people thanked me privately for ‘doing the right thing’. I am fully supportive of our juvenile center and there were many falsehoods out there. I did not try to close down the center or take people’s jobs. I’ve always been a good steward of taxpayer money.”
Hader is disappointed with critics of a plan to relocate the county fairgrounds and build a new multi-purpose event center/fairgrounds complex near I-40 and Highway 81.
“Some people are taking one number off a 25-page (feasibility) study and saying it will cost $47 million, that we’re going to increase the county’s bonded indebtedness and raise taxes,” he said. “There will be no increase in sales tax or property tax. We’re talking about obligating $8-$10 million and there will be no additional tax burden.”
Commissioners plan to use a portion of revenues generated by the county’s use tax to fund the project.
County residents elect their commissioners to make such decisions – just like when the board approved a $24 million annual county budget, according to Hader.
“We’re the representatives elected to do this job,” he said. “I’m willing to make tough decisions if I believe it’s the right thing to do for this county.”
Hader emphasized the new event center/fairgrounds will be utilized for much more than the county fair and annual youth livestock show.
“It will be used year-round for all kinds of programs – high school graduations, equestrian events, car shows, gun shows, concerts, and more,” he said. “I believe it will attract groups that want to use it at a lower rent cost (than Oklahoma City’s fairgrounds) but still be close to Oklahoma City.”
Hader believes its location will attract people to a nearby El Reno commercial and entertainment district that is in the works. There are talks of creating a tax-increment financing (TIF) district to generate revenue for joint projects.
Buildings at the current fairgrounds space on Country Club Road could be converted to house Canadian County inmates now held in five other counties’ jails, Hader reasoned. Canadian County now pays about $1 million annually to house some of its prisoners out-of-county since its 192-bed jail is at capacity.
“That would keep them close to our jail and save on transportation costs,” he said.
Hader doesn’t want to expand the Canadian County Jail unnecessarily.
“I’ve never been a fan of building ‘bricks and mortar’ if we don’t have to,” he said. “I am an advocate for temporary housing facilities for inmates.”
The District 1 commissioner says his experience working in municipal, county and state governments has been beneficial to Canadian County.
Hader has developed many relationships over the years within government agencies and said there has “been no learning curve for me on the job”. Meanwhile, wife Denise worked for former Congressman Ernest Istook and the late state Labor Commissioner Mark Costello.
The Haders have been married since 2000 and are members of Bridge Assembly of God in Mustang. The Haders’ two daughters and their husbands, and their three grandchildren live in the Oklahoma City metro.
The incumbent is a member of the Yukon, Piedmont and El Reno chambers of commerce; and Okarche Lions Club.
Hall: Fiscal Responsibility, Common Sense
Piedmont’s Hall is running as a Libertarian as he challenges Hader for the next four-year term. He wants to help bring common sense to county government and provide the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars.
Early in the campaign, Hall made it clear he is not running because of any personal dislike of his opponent. But he said he could not agree with some major issues occurring in Canadian County.
Hall is strongly opposed to the proposed relocation and expansion of the county fairgrounds, saying it could cost $47 million in taxpayer dollars that the current county commissioners “want to spend without consent” of Canadian County citizens.
“Living in an extremely conservative county, all the buzzwords are the same. Financial responsibility, accountability, transparency,” Hall said. “From a Libertarian standpoint, I truly believe in fiscal responsibility. But $47 million for the fairgrounds, without going in front of the taxpayers and when we have more pressing needs, doesn’t seem ‘responsible’ to me. That just doesn’t compute in my mind.
“I feel I should spend the taxpayers’ money the same way I spend my own money.”
Hall referred to the first candidate forum when commissioners were asked how much revenue the new fairgrounds facility would generate.
“Marc just said, ‘This project is not designed to make money’,” Hall said. “I thought, ‘So, you’re going to spend $47 million on a project that’s going to lose money for its lifetime’. With the plan they have in place, they’re going to have to have a full-time marketing director to try and find people to come in and rent this place.”
The District 1 commissioner candidate believes the $47 million estimate is “just the beginning” and the project would “continue to cost money” to pay for staff, security and maintenance.
Hall believes Canadian County’s existing fairgrounds needs a renovation, but he cited declining participation at county fairs both here and in Oklahoma City.
“Our world is just different now,” he said. “The county fair is just not as big a deal as it used to be. While I do think we need (fairgrounds) improvements for our 4-H and FFA programs, and the things that go on there, I don’t think this 50-acre facility is the answer.”
Hall called the fairgrounds relocation a “misplaced priority”.
The District 1 commissioner candidate said county use tax revenues from Internet sales should first be directed toward repairing the county’s heaved and buckled roads, provide the sheriff with a self-sufficient and safe jail, renovate the current county fairgrounds, help with capital improvements for the county’s schools, and “get serious” about locating water resources for the future.
Because Canadian County’s jail is at capacity, an average of 90 inmates are housed at jails in five other counties. Citing his background in corrections and law enforcement, Hall said there is risk transporting those prisoners.
“We have the liability of another jail taking care of our inmates,” he said. “If something goes wrong in one of those jails, that’s still going to come back on us. We need to be taking care of our own inmates as much as possible. … Sending them out to five different counties is excessive.
“We’re obviously not doing something right with our jail. Our county is growing too much and we’re not attempting to deal with that. We’re just trying to put a Band-aid on it.”
Hall expressed unwavering support of the Canadian County Children’s Justice Center, saying Associate District Judge Bob Hughey and his staff are “doing a great service for our county and all the children who come through” the center’s doors.
Hall referred to previous attempts by the county commissioners to redirect a portion of and reduce the .35 percent county sales tax earmarked for juvenile facility operations. He doesn’t believe a commissioner should use his position to hinder the center’s work or the will of the people they are elected to represent.
“One of the reasons we have such a low crime rate and recidivism rate among our youthful offenders is because of that juvenile center,” he said. “We represent the taxpayers, and they have overwhelmingly voted to support the juvenile center. If they want to support them, we need to support them. Three guys shouldn’t be able to circumvent the will of the county.”
Canadian County taxpayers have repeatedly backed the juvenile center with their votes and willingness to send tax dollars there, Hall added.
“They have a fantastic program,” he said, noting efforts to reduce drug use and truancy. “It is a premier facility in our state. I am very impressed with all the services they offer, not just with juveniles who already (are) in trouble but with kids who are headed down a bad path.”
While he recognizes the vital importance of the oil and gas industry in the state and county, Hall wants to address road damage caused by its heavy truck traffic.
“We have to protect our infrastructure,” he said.
The District 1 contender supports enforcing signage that limits truck traffic to specific routes and believes the county should consider closing certain roads to those heavy trucks.
“Certain companies have been given immunity from the size and weights restrictions that are in place,” Hall said.
With so many miles of county road to patrol, he supports adding one or two more size and weights deputies.
The Libertarian challenger acknowledged he was concerned about running against a Republican in such a “red” county.
“I think people are really paying attention, and know the differences between Marc and I,” he said. “I like Marc fine. I just don’t agree with his choices on some things.”
Hall has run his campaign without seeking outside political contributions, saying he’d rather fund his own campaign than to ever have a financial donor ask him for special favors. He encourages people not to vote “straight party” on their Nov. 6 ballots.
The District 1 challenger owns a wrecker service and repossession company, is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association and member of Trinity Baptist Church in Yukon.
Hall has a criminal justice degree from Redlands Community College and a Christian ministries business administration degree from Dallas Baptist University. He married wife Dayla in 1996 and has two daughters who attend Piedmont High School.