By Conrad Dudderar
It’s been a long, memorable journey for Larry Taylor, who stepped down this week after 26 years of volunteer service to the City of Yukon.
Taylor resigned Monday from the Yukon Planning Commission after 14 years as Ward 2 representative. Ward 2 City Council Member Shelli Selby has appointed Jarrid Wright – who had been on the Board of Adjustments – to succeed him.
“I really will miss it,” Taylor said. “There haven’t been many people who have devoted as much time to the City of Yukon as I have.”
Taylor, a longtime realtor and property manager, said he’s truly enjoyed his time serving Yukon’s citizens.
“I made a lot of friends and hope I really made a difference in improving our community,” he said. “We accomplished a lot of great things and I’m proud of how Yukon has grown and prospered over the last three decades.”
Taylor began his unpaid city government service in 1992 when he was appointed to fill an unexpired term on the city council. He served 7-1/2 years on the council, the last five years as mayor.
After a two-year break in the early 2000s, Taylor was appointed to the city’s Board of Adjustments. He joined the Yukon Planning Commission in 2006 and had been chairman for more than five years.
Monday, Feb. 10 was Taylor’s last meeting on the five-member planning commission.
“All things come to an end at some point,” Taylor said.
The outgoing planning commissioner thanked fellow commissioners along with city staff – led by Development Services Director Mitchell Hort and secretary Kathy Johnson – for all their help.
“I appreciate you guys and all your interest in Yukon and the study and preparations you put in for our meetings,” Taylor said. “It makes things go really well up here. And I think we’ve done a pretty good job.”
Bill Baker will become the new Yukon Planning Commission chairman and Taylor is confident in his leadership.
City attorney Gary Miller thanked Taylor for his long service to the City of Yukon.
“It’s been a pleasure to work with you over the years,” Miller said. “You’ve done a magnificent job as chairman.”
Planning commissioner Nick Grba, a former Ward 1 city council member, echoed those sentiments.
“I want to thank you for not only your work here on the planning commission but all the work over the years for Yukon in various positions,” Grba said. “That’s a lot of years of service. Thank you!”
REPLACING ANTON YANDA III
A former school band teacher, Taylor’s first foray into Yukon city government came in mid-1992 when he was appointed to complete the final year of Anton Yanda III’s term on the five-member city council.
“I had to run for one year, then ran and was elected twice for three-year terms,” Taylor said. “I served 7-1/2 years on the council, including two years as vice mayor and five years as mayor.”
He listed the hiring of Jim Crosby as city manager in 1994 as one of his greatest accomplishments while on the council.
“Before Jim came, we thought it was a big deal when we bought five used Missouri Highway Patrol cars with 85,000 miles and painted them for our police department,” Taylor said. “That was all we could afford in those days.”
Crosby’s leadership put Yukon on a solid financial footing and helped upgrade city vehicles and equipment, Taylor added.
“Jim Crosby is a good friend and he’s great for Yukon,” he said.
Another accomplishment during the mid-90s was developing Chisholm Trail Park, which has become Yukon’s premier special event venue. Taylor again credited Crosby and the late Clarence Wright for their vision in making this passive park a reality.
“It’s a really good feeling to see something we started on – like Boot Hill park with the walking trail – get built and be enjoyed by so many people,” Taylor said.
Taylor listed other capital upgrades during his tenue on the city council – many paving, drainage and bridge projects and the Interstate 40-Czech Hall Road interchange, among others.
Crediting both Crosby and Wright, Taylor said he’s also proud the City of Yukon has been able to host the Oklahoma City Philharmonic orchestra for annual concerts since the late ‘90s.
These civic improvements led to an economic boon and development in Yukon, and Taylor recalled officiating many new business ribbon cuttings during his mayoral tenure.
Late in his final city council term, Taylor joined Wright and Crosby to encourage Integris Health officials to build a new hospital in Yukon. Integris Canadian Valley opened in 2001.
Taylor mentioned some fellow city leaders who he called great council members and friends – with Ray Wright, Genie Vinson, Denny Myers, and DeWayne Maxey heading the list.
“I enjoyed serving with all the council members I served alongside,” Taylor said.
TERM LIMITED OUT
Taylor’s stint on the city council came to end in 2000 due to term limits. With a desire to continue his public service, Taylor launched a bid for the District 43 seat on Oklahoma’s House of Representative. But he was defeated by Ray Young.
Two years later, he was appointed to the Yukon Board of Adjustments. He served four years, including a stint as chairman. During this time, Taylor filed for the at-large seat on the Yukon City Council but again lost, this time to Ron Jurgensen. He passed on an opportunity to join Yukon Public Schools’ Board of Education, a decision he regrets.
When there was an opening on the five-member Yukon Planning Commission, however, Taylor jumped at the chance. He would serve as the commission’s Ward 2 representative from 2006 until this week.
Taylor never missed a meeting while on the city council and rarely missed meetings on the planning commission. Even after having major back surgery in 2019, he made all but two meetings.
“One of the things I’m most proud of as chairman was making sure applicants meet all city requirements before they come before the planning commission,” Taylor said. “I also stopped the practice of an applicant’s preliminary plat and final plat being considered in the same meeting.”
To be precise, Taylor’s service to his community has not ended. He remains a member of the Spanish Cove Retirement Village’s board of trustees, a position he’s held for 28 years. He also has been on Nina Willingham Senior Housing’s board since it formed more than 20 years ago.
The Yukon Chamber of Commerce named Taylor as its 2012 H.B. Frank Citizen of the Year for his dedication and leadership to Yukon.
“I wish everybody the best so Yukon can continue to flourish!” Taylor said.
HONEST … A CLASS ACT
Another former Yukon mayor who speaks highly of Taylor is Ward Larson, who served on the city council from 2003-10.
“Larry has always been thoughtful, honest and a class act,” Larson said.
Taylor was mayor in the late 1990s when plans were announced to build a large Albertson’s grocery store near N.W. 10th and Cornwell. Larson happened to live on West Olympic Drive directly behind where the new store would be constructed.
“Larry really helped all of us during that timeframe,” Larson said. “The original proposal was to build a six-foot cedar fence between the grocery store and the homes. It would have been a big building looming over our residential neighborhood.
“Larry fought for us and helped turn it into a positive situation.”
Albertson’s ended up erecting a taller concrete block wall with brick pilasters to provide a more substantial, long-lasting buffer.
Until that time, Larson had no interest in serving on the city council.
“But I saw Larry and how effective he was to help citizens,” Larson said.
After Taylor left the city council, Larson campaigned and was elected to the Ward 2 seat. He served two terms that included one year as Yukon’s mayor before leaving office in 2010.
And yet another former mayor, Genie Vinson, fondly recalls Taylor’s leadership to the City of Yukon. Vinson and Taylor have another connection, as both are longtime Yukon realtors and mainstays at Friday morning chamber coffees.
“Larry has done an outstanding job,” Vinson said. “I’m sad to see him step down. He has donated a tremendous amount of time to Yukon.”
Vinson referred to the vast knowledge that Taylor gained over his years of government service.
“The history is what you lose (with Taylor’s departure),” she said. “It’s hard to have people that come in understand how we got where we are and what it took.”
Vinson served with Taylor on the city council from 1994-2001. She was the Ward 4 representative and succeeded Taylor as Yukon’s mayor.
“Larry is a teacher. He knows how to teach and he knows how to work with people,” Vinson said. “He’s done a great job for Yukon.”