By Conrad Dudderar
EL RENO – With the departure of longtime Canadian County Commissioner Jack Stewart, it will be a “changing of the guards” Wednesday morning inside the Canadian County Courthouse.
Newly elected District 3 Commissioner Tracey Rider is due to receive the oath of office during a 9 a.m. Nov. 23 swearing-in ceremony inside courtroom #1.
Canadian County District Judge Paul Hesse will preside.
Stewart will officially resign Tuesday, Nov. 22 after 12-1/2 years as Canadian County’s District 3 commissioner. The Yukon Republican was elected to a four-year term representing Oklahoma Senate District 18.
El Reno’s Rider was elected as Stewart’s successor after defeating Yukon’s Robert Merrick in the June 28th Republican primary election.
Stewart is stepping from the District 3 Canadian County commissioner’s seat about six weeks before the term ends Dec. 31, with Rider to fill the post.
“All eight county officers in Canadian County are just phenomenal,” said Stewart, who was District 3 commissioner since April 2010. “We have had great relationships and have all worked together.
“We’re all on the same page, for the good of Canadian County. I’m going to miss it.”
Stewart was first elected in 2010 to complete an unexpired term after the death of former District 3 Commissioner Grant Hedrick Jr. Hedrick was killed in a November 2009 traffic collision.
Stewart was re-elected three times to four-year terms. He had initially planned to seek a fourth term as commissioner before choosing instead to run for a seat in the 48-member Oklahoma State Senate.
That decision came after legislative redistricting, which has moved Senate District 18 to this area from eastern Oklahoma.
“In 12-1/2 years, I feel like we’ve done a lot here individually and together,” Stewart told fellow county officials during a Nov. 21st reception. “We each have our own districts, but we work together at the same time.
“I’m proud of what we’ve done. … We’ve done as much as we could do with the money that we had.”
Stewart advised Rider and District 1 Commissioner-elect Tom Manske to “never count on” steady gross production tax revenues, derived from oil and gas operations, to fund county road projects.
“For the last six to eight months, it’s been really, really good and we’ve gotten a lot of stuff done,” Stewart said. “But, put it in savings before you spend it.
“Be ready, because it could drop again.”
In closing, Sen. Stewart asked for the thoughts and prayers of Canadian County’s elected officials as he embarks on a new journey at the Oklahoma State Capitol.
“It’s a great group of people here in Canadian County,” he said. “I was absolutely looking forward to four more years of it.
“But I’m going to try something new and see if I can make some kind of a different difference – still for Canadian County, but more so for an even larger constituency.”
‘WISH YOU BEST’
Fellow Canadian County Commissioners Dave Anderson and Marc Hader commended Stewart for his service during Monday morning’s reception in the County Administration Building.
“My time working here with you has been a learning experience for me,” District 2 Commissioner Anderson said. “I’ve enjoyed getting to know you during 12-1/2 years of working with you. I don’t feel like we’ve ever had a falling out.
“You’ve not only been good to work with; you’ve been a friend. … I wish you the best in the Senate.”
District 1 Commissioner Hader, who will leave office at the end of December after two terms, said it’s been a pleasure serving with Stewart.
“You’ve left a mark, taking Canadian County in a positive direction,” Hader told Stewart.
Although Canadian County’s three commissioners have had disagreements and their fair share of 2-1 votes, Hader emphasized they’ve never been vindictive toward each other.
Hader’s wife, District 41 State Rep. Denise Crosswhite Hader (R-Piedmont), presented Stewart with an official citation from the Oklahoma State House of Representatives.
“You have served Canadian County well – and you have served me well,” Rep. Crosswhite Hader told the new senator Monday morning.
“I appreciate what you’ve done to help me understand more about what the county does. I look forward to working with you (in the State Legislature).”
Meanwhile, new Commissioner Rider is getting a “head start” this week representing Canadian County District 3. That’s because the next four-year term doesn’t start until Jan. 1.
District 1 Commissioner-elect Manske will take the oath of office in early January to succeed Hader.