Yukon-area candidates speak out at OKC Council forum

Among nine contenders for Ward 1 seat; primary Feb. 9

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By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

Two Yukon-area residents are among candidates who participated in a recent Ward 1 Oklahoma City Council forum.

The candidate forum, held at the Reaching Our City ministry on N.W. 10th, was co-sponsored by the Northwest Oklahoma City Chamber and the WesTen District.

Eight of nine candidates vying for the Oklahoma City Council Ward 1 seat discussed issues and their qualifications during the event:

  • Richard Thomas Buchanan, 63, of N Eagle Lane
  • Bradley Steven Carter, 41, of N.W. 103rd Street (Yukon)
  • Nana Abram Dankwa, 39, of Woodland Way
  • Joshua Wayne Debolt, 37, of Long Meadow Road
  • William Michael (Bill) Fleming, 76, of Keith Street (Yukon)
  • Susan Kay Parisi, 69, of N Markwell Avenue
  • Jay Sterling Sherrill, 40, of NW 58th Street
  • Shay Thomas Varnell, 45, of Whitechapel Street

A ninth candidate, Megan Leigh Scott, 36, of NW 44th Street in Oklahoma City, did not participate in the forum due to COVID-19 concerns.

The non-partisan Oklahoma City Ward 1 primary election is set Tuesday, Feb. 9. Nine candidates filed to succeed incumbent James Greiner, who decided not to run for a second term after being elected in April 2013.

Ward 1 stretches all the way into Canadian County south of Piedmont and north of Yukon. This area includes the west and parts of northwest Oklahoma City, surrounding Warr Acres and Bethany.

THE CANDIDATES

Eight candidates spoke during the Oklahoma City’s Ward 1 candidate forum.

  • Richard Buchanan is a business owner and graduate of Leadership Oklahoma City.

“Do not look out for your own personal interests, but look out for the interests of others,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan advocates for growth through the MAPS projects, promoting economic development, improving infrastructure, and supporting small businesses. He believes Oklahoma’s economy will “come back strong” after COVID-19-related shutdowns and restrictions.

Buchanan is ready to roll up his sleeves and get to work if elected, realizing it will take some “digging in” to “get things done.”

“The decisions will make will decide what our children’s and city’s future looks like,” he said.

  • Bradley Carter owns a small coffee roasting and distribution business. Carter believes enhancing Oklahoma City’s infrastructure and road system will help attract companies that consider moving here, thus creating more jobs.
Bradley Carter, who lives on 103rd Street in Surrey Hills, shares his campaign priorities during a recent forum for candidates seeking Oklahoma City’s Ward 1 council seat. The primary election is Feb. 9. (Photo provided)

Other key issues for Carter are combatting the city’s homeless and hunger issues, providing affordable housing and funding for first responders.

When it comes to COVID-19, Carter supports people’s freedom and cited the negative impact of restrictions and lockdowns, which lead to rising domestic violence and drug abuse.

“We need to trust the people,” he said. “It’s our constitutional right to be able to have that. People want to do the right thing. But we also need to keep our businesses open and people need to be able to move.”

  • Nana Dankwa is an attorney who believes public service is the best way to give back to his city.

The Oklahoma City native also believes his diverse background in the fields of law, healthcare, business, and banking make him uniquely qualified and the best Ward 1 candidate to address needs the city faces.

Dankwa’s platform focuses on public safety, economic development, more sidewalks and bike lanes, and a call for more diversity and inclusiveness.

He also cited the need to support small businesses due to COVID-19 while providing affordable housing for the city’s most vulnerable citizens.

Danka supports Oklahoma City’s mask mandate, which he believes will help the economy by keeping businesses open during the pandemic.

  • Joshua Debolt is a small business owner who says running for city council is his responsibility “as an Oklahoman and as an American.”

“My faith in God and my love for Oklahoma is what’s driving me to be a city council person.”

Coming from a law enforcement family, Debolt has been troubled by calls from city council members to “defund” Oklahoma City Police.

He supports increased funding for law enforcement, providing better equipment and training “to keep Oklahomans safe.”

Debolt also wants to address Oklahoma City’s homeless problem, specifically among veterans.

The Ward 1 contender strongly opposes Oklahoma City’s mask mandate

“I do not believe local government, state government or federal government should have the right to tell citizens to wear a mask,” he said. “I believe the citizens of Oklahoma are smart enough to make those decisions for themselves.”

  • Bill Fleming is an independent contractor who chaired the MAPS-3 wellness center project. He recalls Oklahoma City’s dark days after the Penn Square Bank crisis when many people moved away, jobs were hard to find and property values plummeted.
Bill Fleming, who lives on Keith Street in far north Yukon, discusses his qualifications during the Oklahoma City Council Ward 1 candidate forum. Eight of the nine candidates participated in the event. (Photo provided)

“We really had a black eye then,” Fleming said. “Now times are different. We’re seeing Oklahoma City grow and there’s a lot of opportunity here.

“Amazing things are happening. But we’re also facing this COVID crisis and a lot of other problems in our city.”

Fleming believes his conservative Christian values and business experience will help him represent Oklahoma City well on the council.

During the health crisis, Fleming is adamantly opposed to shutting down the economy.

“I think you do far more harm than you do good,” Fleming said. “The ability for people to get out of their homes and interact (with others) is really important.”

  • Susan Parisi is a retired U.S. Army Force lieutenant colonel with 30 years of military and professional service. She’s been the chief nurse of three medical squadrons and served with the Army National Guard as a safety and occupational health nurse.

Parisi’s campaign priorities are homelessness, food insecurity, drug abuse, domestic violence, and increased funding for first responders and mental health professionals.

“All my life, I’ve been a problem solver seeking solutions – not blame,” she said. “I’m not going to negatively exploit my opponents’ youth. I’m going to use my age, my experience, my competency and expertise being a member of a team guiding Oklahoma City into the future.”

As a registered nurse, Parisi is passionate that Oklahoma City needs a mask mandate to reduce the spread of the airborne disease.

  • Jay Sherrill works in healthcare with a national company delivering laboratory services to hospital systems. The Oklahoma City native also is a Putnam City Board of Education member.

Sherrill was encouraged to run by former Mayor Mick Cornett, who serves as his campaign chairman.

“I have a track record of public service,” he said. “I care about our city and I want to make sure it continues to be represented.”

If elected, Sherrill plans to focus on public safety, improving infrastructure, economic development, job growth, and ensuring MAPS-4 projects are finished on time and on budget.

The Ward 1 council candidate wants to build relationships with local communities, neighborhood associations and small businesses “so they have a voice down at city hall.”

Sherill believes COVID-19 is a real issue “we need to tackle head on” because “it’s going to get worse probably before it gets better.”

  • Shay Varnell, a small business owner and lifelong Oklahoma City resident, served almost 10 years as president of his homeowners’ association.

Two years ago, Mayor David Holt appointed Varnell to the Oklahoma City Traffic Commission where he’s learned the “inner-workings and the processes” of the city.

Addressing his campaign priorities, Varnell puts first responders first.

“We have to take care, fund and give the support to the people we count on most when we dial 911,” he said. “Second is MAPS-4. The city has given us a $1 billion promise that we need to deliver on as city councilmen. There’s a lot of projects we want to make sure are on done on time, on budget and completed properly.”

Meanwhile, Varnell opposes Oklahoma City’s mask mandate.

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POLLS OPEN FEB. 9

There will be nine Canadian County polling sites open Feb. 9 for Oklahoma City’s Ward 1 primary election:

  • Surrey Hills Baptist Church, 12421 N Mustang Road.
  • Richland Nazarene Church, 10825 N 6th St.
  • Bethel Community Church, 4901 N Sara Road.
  • Church of Christ-South Yukon, 11700 N.W. 10th St.
  • Covenant Community Church, 2250 Yukon Parkway.
  • Dale Robertson Center, 1200 Lakeshore.
  • Sara Road Baptist Church, 2015 N Sara Road.
  • Light Your World Church, 4550 N.W. Expressway
  • Piedmont First Baptist Church, 15 Jackson Ave. NW.

If no candidate earns at least 50% of all votes cast in Tuesday’s primary, a general election between the top two vote-getters will be April 6 to determine the winner.

Oklahoma City Council members serve four-year terms.