By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
Four eastern Canadian County residents running for a seat on the Oklahoma City Council participated in a recent public forum to share their views on issues ranging from infrastructure needs and controlled growth to capital improvement projects and COVID-19.
The Oklahoma City Ward 3 council candidate forum was sponsored by Northwest Oklahoma City Chamber, WesTen District and Windsor District.
The forum at Portland Avenue Baptist Church featured four of the six Ward 3 candidates:
• Allen Swanda, 60, of Edinburg Drive
• Jessica Martinez-Brooks, 43, of Lysander Place
• Charles (Trey) Bishop, 45, of W Reno Avenue
• Kelli Payne, 44, of S. Mustang Road
The other two Ward 3 candidates are Tim Long, 54, of S.W. 128th Court and Barbara Young, 45, of SW 18th Street.
The non-partisan, Oklahoma City Ward 3 primary election is set Tuesday, Feb. 9.
Oklahoma City’s Ward 3 covers the west and southwest part of Oklahoma City – well into Canadian County sharing borders with Yukon and Mustang.
Several Yukon and Mustang-area residents were encouraged to run for Oklahoma City Council because about one-third of Canadian County’s estimated 150,000 residents live inside Oklahoma City limits.
A PASSION TO SERVE
An Oklahoma native who lives in Westbury, Swanda spent 30 years on active duty as a U.S. Army officer and later was an oil and gas consultant and small business owner in southeast Asia.
“I still have a passion to serve,” Swanda told the audience. “I can’t do it in uniform, so I’d love to serve our community.”
The Ward 3 contender cited his leadership and experience – in Oklahoma and around the world.
“The seat of the ward doesn’t belong to the person whose elected there, it belongs to the majority who want action from city council,” he said. “I want to serve. I want to make sure the people are represented.”
Swanda challenged whoever is elected to dedicate half their salary to COVID-19 relief until the pandemic is over. Oklahoma City Council members are paid a $12,000 annual salary.
He believes the council must focus on improving road conditions and the city’s road network.
Swanda, as an Oklahoma City resident, has a Yukon mailing address, City of Oklahoma City utilities in the Mustang school district.
“The ward has grown in population four-fold from 15 years ago,” he noted. “It’s very important we (as a council) collaborate, especially with Yukon, Mustang and Piedmont, who have school districts that will be impacted by the massive development that we continue to do in Ward 3.”
Oklahoma City is the fastest-growing city in Canadian County, he added. It’s also now the largest.
SOME ‘REALLY WILD IDEAS’
Raised in the Yukon area, Bishop works in the family real estate business. He wants to address concerns about sprawling westward development.
“Oklahoma City went on a wild annexing spree 50 or so years ago, just taking in a whole bunch of land for no apparent reason,” Bishop said. “But it actually was a business strategy, a strategy to make money for some people.
“Oklahoma City doesn’t need all this land and the people out in a lot of these areas don’t want to be a part of Oklahoma City. My suggestion is to offer de-annexation (of outlying areas) to these people.”
This would allow for annexation to Yukon or Mustang, where – he says – “people really want to be.”
Bishop contended the City of Oklahoma City has allowed a “wild west situation” for developers on the west side.
He argued many developers have been allowed to build new neighborhoods that increase traffic without having to pay their fair share of infrastructure improvements.
Bishop referred to the Frisco Road interchange, claiming Oklahoma City “dropped the ball” on the City of Yukon by not funding its local share of this state project.
Yukon finished paying for the project, but Bishop noted Oklahoma City will benefit when the interchange opens.
Bishop voted against phase four of Oklahoma City’s MAPS plan, opposing the entertainment projects.
“I generally take the position that taxation is theft,” Bishop said. “I don’t like taxes at all.”
NEIGHBOR HELPING NEIGHBOR
A lifelong Oklahoma City resident, Martinez-Brooks is vice chair of the Oklahoma City Water Utility Trust and School Bond Advisory Board.
“I believe it’s the right thing – neighbor helping neighbor,” she said of her desire to serve on the city council.
Infrastructure, public safety and quality of life are high on Martinez-Brooks’ list of priorities.
“Especially in Ward 3, with the ever-expanding housing that we have,” she said.
Her favorite MAPS-4 projects are new parks, including one planned in Canadian County.
“It is really important that we provide those spaces for our families, especially right now during COVID times, where (residents) can get out, walk and just enjoy time with their families,” Martinez-Brooks said.
Speaking of the pandemic, Martinez-Brooks supports “getting back to business” with kids in school and mobile vaccine units.
The candidate pointed out the large size of Ward 3, which covers parts of Oklahoma, Canadian and Cleveland counties and includes eight school districts.
“I live in Canadian County, I have Oklahoma City water utilities and Mustang Public Schools,” Martinez-Brooks said. “People feel oftentimes they’re in ‘no man’s land’ out there. We just don’t understand which municipality to go to for an issue.”
She noted Oklahoma City housing is in high demand, with many people moving here from other states because of low cost of living and a business-friendly climate.
COMMON SENSE,GET CREATIVE
Payne, who lives south of Mustang, is a fifth-generation cow calf producer and board chairman for Stockyards City Main Street. She is a member of the Stockyards Urban Design Overlay Commission.
“I bring a common-sense approach to business,” said Payne, a previous small business owner. “Getting creative with public-private partnerships, focusing on economic development and quality of life in Oklahoma City is really key and it’s really important to me.”
Payne told the audience why she wanted to serve Ward 3:
“What a great ward with so many things to offer, whether it’s industry, small-town feel and the rural component as well.”
Payne expressed the need for the city council to keep people employed in “very good” jobs as Oklahoma City recovers from the health crisis. She cited the many businesses hurt by COVID.
Payne wants to see MAPS funds used to address mental health, substance abuse and Oklahoma City’s chronic homelessness.
Replying to a question on how the Oklahoma City Council can improve race relations, Payne noted she’s the first female president of the Oklahoma National Stockyards.
“I’m a woman in a man’s world,” the Ward 3 contender said. “I have a very diverse staff, of about 40 people, from all nationalities and all different languages. We work together as a team.
“That goes back to my agricultural roots. You all work together to achieve a goal.”
POLLS OPEN FEB. 9
There will be 13 Canadian County polling sites open Feb. 9 for the Ward 3 primary election:
• Richland Nazarene Church, 10825 N 6th St.
• Trinity Baptist Church, 620 N Cemetery Road.
• Church of Christ-South Yukon, 11700 NW 10th St.
• House of Restoration Church, 301 N Czech Hall Road.
• Canadian Hills Nazarene Church, 11744 W Reno Ave.
• International Pentecostal Assembly Church, 12221 Park Ave.
• Westpointe Chrysler Jeep Dodge, 11001 W Reno Ave.
• West Point Christian Church, 1600 S Richland Road.
• United Methodist Church of the Good Shepherd, 10928 SW 15th St.
• Sara Road Baptist Church, 2015 N Sara Road.
• Mustang Nazarene Church, 700 E Highway 152.
• Church of Christ West Metro, 4900 S Cemetery Road.
• Lakehoma Church of Christ, 2121 W State Highway 152.
If no candidate earns at least 50% of all votes cast in the Feb. 9th primary, a general election between the top two vote-getters will be April 6.
Oklahoma City Council members serve four-year terms.