By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
As Yukon city leaders navigate a field of land mines caused by a global pandemic, the city’s previous mayor talked recently about challenges his successor is facing.
Mike McEachern, who left office in early May after 18 years of volunteer service to the City of Yukon, said he realizes the difficult decisions that first-year Mayor Shelli Selby and fellow council members must make.
“I do not miss it in that regard, knowing what’s going on right now,” said McEachern, who preceded Selby as Yukon’s appointed mayor.
McEachern was mayor in mid-March when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and he signed the first City of Yukon emergency proclamation in response to the health crisis. He knows being mayor is much more than kissing babies and cutting ribbons – and recent events make that evident.
Selby has been challenged by District 43 State Rep. Jay Steagall (R-Yukon) and others about an updated emergency proclamation she signed in early June. Her action has required all restaurant and bar employees – and anyone inside a City of Yukon building – to wear face masks to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
McEachern, who is enjoying retirement at age 76, believes the current mayor’s decision was sound.
“Shelli did the right thing,” he said. “I’ve become a fan now that she’s in that chair.”
McEachern spent 10 years on the Yukon Planning Commission before being elected in 2012 as Ward 4 representative on the city council. McEachern was re-elected to a second term in 2016 and served eight years in elected office – the last three years as mayor.
McEachern doesn’t agree with everything his mayoral successor and fellow council members have done, but he respects their decisions as they’ve faced health and economic uncertainties.
“I wish the council the best,” he said, encouraging them to use taxpayer money wisely to take care of essential services and improve the community.
McEachern empathizes with Yukon’s elected leaders as the City recovers from the pandemic – which has killed more than 150,000 U.S. citizens including nearly 600 Oklahomans.
Yukon alone has had more than 600 positive COVID-19 cases, and is now ranked seventh highest among all Oklahoma municipalities.
With the Yukon City Council making budget cuts, McEachern commended Mayor Selby for continuing Yukon’s financial backing (through the Community Support Foundation; not taxpayer funds) of non-profit helping agencies like Compassionate Hands, Yukon Sharing and Manna Pantry.
Although he no longer holds a City of Yukon office, McEachern was named this year to Compassionate Hands’ board of directors.
“I want to have a say in bringing these organizations together under an ‘umbrella’, along with the museums in town,” he said.
‘ALL IS GOOD’
Three months after leaving office, McEachern said he enjoyed his time in city government service but prefers to stay retired.
“I’m living the life of Riley,” said McEachern, referring to his stress-free existence free from controversy. “Life is good.”
Because of COVID-19, Yukon’s past mayor is staying close to home and isn’t “doing much.” He and wife Linda look forward to taking a summer cruise … next year.
“I’m keeping it low-key,” McEachern said. “I don’t go to many gatherings.”
A member of Yukon’s First United Methodist Church since 1970, he watches livestream Sunday services because of crowd restrictions in the sanctuary.
McEachern loves Yukon, as evidenced by his 52 years living in the same Ranchwood North house.
“All is good,” he said. “I feel blessed that the good Lord allowed me to leave a pretty decent legacy.”
McEachern shared the proudest accomplishments of his all-volunteer civic service.
Topping the list are starting the State Highway 4 and Frisco/I-40 interchange projects, finishing the Frisco Road water tower, and helping the City achieve financial stability after an economic crisis five years ago.
“At the council meeting before I left, our auditors gave the City of Yukon a clean bill of health,” he said.
He’s glad to have helped bring back Jim Crosby as city manager while making sure both Crosby and city attorney Gary Miller are paid what they’re worth – based on Yukon’s 25,000 population and $51 million annual budget.
“I have no regrets – none,” McEachern said. “I left with a clean slate and good legacy.
“I did my time and I have no plans at this time to run again for any public office. But I ‘never say never’ to anything.”