By Conrad Dudderar
Tracey Rider will get an early start – quite literally – as the newest Canadian County commissioner.
The lifelong Canadian County resident was elected this summer to succeed Jack Stewart as the District 3 commissioner. The next four-year term doesn’t start until Jan. 1, 2023, but Rider will take office almost six weeks early.
That’s because Stewart has been elected to the Oklahoma State Senate and will begin his official legislative duties Nov. 23 at the State Capitol.
After more than 12-1/2 years as District 3 county commissioner, Stewart will leave his Canadian County post early to join the 48-member State Senate.
Plans are for Rider to take the oath of office as Stewart’s successor Nov. 23, right before Thanksgiving.
“This (serving as county commissioner) fits perfectly in my ‘wheelhouse’ of being able to listen to the people’s needs and to think critically,” said Rider, now an El Reno City Council member.
“I like to empower the people around me to be able to fully embrace the positions that they’re in. I’m not a dictator. I’m a people builder.”
As District 3 commissioner-elect, Rider is learning as much as she can before assuming office.
She has spent recent months listening to constituents’ concerns, attending county meetings, speaking with department directors, and getting to know District 3 personnel.
“I really want to build relationships with the people who are there,” said Rider, who will tour county road projects soon with District 3 chief deputy/foreman Dean Walker.
In December, she will attend a three-day Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma (ACCO) training session in Stillwater for new county officials.
“I’m really excited about the potential for the county as a whole – for all three districts – on what’s coming down the road,” Rider added. “I think the working relationship among the three commissioners is going to be stellar.”
Yukon’s Tom Manske will replace Marc Hader as the District 1 commissioner. The District 2 commissioner is Mustang’s Dave Anderson, who now serves as board chairman.
Rider defeated Yukon’s Robert Merrick in the June 28th Republican primary election to earn the next term as Canadian County’s District 3 commissioner. No other candidate filed for the seat.
Stewart, of Yukon, has been District 3 commissioner since April 2010 when he won a special election after the death of previous Commissioner Grant Hedrick, Jr. Stewart has been re-elected three times.
Stewart didn’t seek a fourth term this year, deciding instead to run for the State Senate.
Stewart beat Yukon’s Hunter Zearley in the Republican primary for Senate District 18. With no other challengers, Stewart was elected to a four-year term that starts Nov. 23.
Rider will lean heavily on her predecessor for advice.
“I’m not going to come in and try to be the know-it-all of everything,” she explained. “I tend to ‘hitch my wagon’ to the people who have the experience and wisdom.
“Let me learn from history.”
LOOKING AHEAD …
For the past five years, Rider has served on the El Reno City Council. She also is human resources/accounting manager for a Yukon business.
Rider will resign from those positions before taking office next month as the new District 3 county commissioner.
“My leadership style is collaborative, looking at what is best for the whole,” she shared. “And having input from everyone. And everyone means everyone.
“Sometimes, the greatest information that we can receive comes from the people who sweep the floors or lay the ‘chip and seal’. Because they’re the ones who are doing it. I lead, but I lead best when other people grow in their skills.”
Among Commissioner Rider’s priorities will be distribution of Canadian County’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) stimulus funds, proposed development of a new county courthouse complex and reconstruction of the Banner Road/State Highway 66 intersection.
Rider also has volunteered to serve on the Cardinal Point board of trustees, to help domestic violence survivors. She attended the Canadian County family justice center’s recent “Honoring Hope” luncheon in Yukon.
Canadian County’s District 3 commissioner-elect believes her municipal government experience will prove valuable in her new elected role.
“I’m looking forward to great communication and partnership with the cities,” Rider said.
District 3 includes parts of Yukon, El Reno, Oklahoma City, Calumet, and Geary.
As she prepares to take her seat on the Canadian County Commission, Rider wants the public to know her door is open if they have a need.
“It doesn’t matter what district you’re in, or what ward you’re in,” she noted. “I’m accessible to the people.”
With a servant’s heart, she is counting down the days to Nov. 23.
“I have been so ready to hit the ground running, but I’ve spent months preparing to hit the ground running so I can,” Rider summarized. “I’m not someone who comes in and makes all these changes. There’s so much to learn coming into this position.
“I first want to learn to navigate the territory. When a new preacher comes to a church, it’s probably not very smart to move the piano in the first year.”